Ethics Commission Administrator Brian Bell is requesting the commission launch an investigation into his conduct, saying the move would help set the record straight on allegations legislative leaders have made against him.
Meanwhile, the commission is also weighing holding its own public review of Bell’s performance should the Senate opt not to hold a confirmation hearing. But commissioners in the meantime decided to send a letter to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to request more information on whether the chamber will hold a hearing prior to the up or down vote that could take place in January.
Bell said today an Ethics Commission review into his conduct would “refute the baseless allegations that have been made against me.”
“I believe that an objective review of my conduct in service to the state would definitively show that I have consistently conducted myself in a nonpartisan and impartial manner,” he said.
As part of an investigation, the commission would have the power to subpoena records and call witness in to testify under oath, Chair David Halbrooks noted.
Bell’s request comes after Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, urged both Bell and Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas to step aside because the two “have lost the confidence of our caucuses to be an impartial administrator.”
Haas yesterday sent a letter to Vos and Fitzgerald demanding an apology for “trashing my name and reputation,” adding their statements implying he had been involved in criminal activity are “verifiably false” and the lawmakers have not offered “the least bit of evidence to support those claims.”
Spokespeople for Fitzgerald and Vos didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Commissioners today again signaled their support for Bell, as members opted to uncover more information about a possible confirmation vote next month in the Senate.
Fitzgerald previously threatened to force Senate votes next month on the nominations of Bell and Haas unless they resign. Fitzgerald said they would “never” get enough votes to win confirmation.
But commissioners including GOP Commissioner Mac Davis, an appointee of Gov. Scott Walker and former state senator, stood behind Bell. Davis said Bell was being “unfairly tarred by the dark shadow of the Government Accountability Board’s conduct.”
He added has has “seen no inkling of any kind” of partisanship from Bell.
And Halbrooks, who pushed for the commission to agree to hold a hearing for Bell if the Senate was planning not to, said in Bell, commissioners “found a person who we can all rely on to be fair and not take any partisan leanings into account.”
“I would not ask for someone’s resignation based on this alone,” said Halbrooks, referring to the letter from Vos and Fitzgerald last week.