Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald charged the old GAB was engaged in an active conspiracy to tilt the recall elections of 2011 and 2012 against Republicans and push them out of power as retribution for Act 10.
Former GAB Director Kevin Kennedy hotly rejected Fitzgerald’s accusation, calling it “baseless.”
Still, Fitzgerald said Republicans are considering moves that could force two former GAB employees out of their jobs. That follows the GOP-controlled Senate voting 18-13 along party lines yesterday to reject Brian Bell and Mike Haas as the administrators of those two agencies.
The Elections Commission has asked the Joint Finance Committee for permission to add three positions. Fitzgerald told reporters late yesterday afternoon that opens the door for Republicans to examine the legal counsel positions now held by Nathan Judnic at the Elections Commission and David Buerger at the Ethics Commission. Both are former GAB employees.
Fitzgerald said Republicans could re-classify those positions to strip them of certain protections or decide they’re not needed altogether. He said majority Republicans will never have confidence in the agencies until some former GAB employees are no longer in the position to influence elections and ethics.
“It’s just hard to develop any type of cooperative relationship or establish any credibility as long as some of those people are over there,” Fitzgerald said.
Elections Commission Chair Mark Thomsen said Fitzgerald is making a “joke” out of the system and it “is time for good people to stand up and say enough is enough.” He said the “ink is barely dry” on the law creating the commissions.
“It’s is very undemocratic and inconsistent with our constitution and principles to have a party — and a few people as a matter of fact in that party — simply change the rules every time they don’t like them,” Thomsen said.
Thomsen said he plans to seek keeping Haas on as interim administrator.
He also continued to question if the Senate has the authority to remove the agency’s administrator. Thomsen said his reading of the statutes suggests only the commission can do that, and he plans to share that position at a board meeting scheduled for this afternoon.
He said the Department of Administration sent Haas a letter indicating he is no longer the administrator, and Thomsen wants information from DOA to support that view. If the agency responds with that information, Thomsen plans to ask the commission to re-appoint Haas as the interim administrator.
“I hope that the commissioners continue to support Mr. Haas, because there hasn’t been any evidence provided to us, nor could I glean from the papers today at the Senate hearing, as to any factual basis to in fact remove him from his position that the commissioners have appointed him to under their authority under the law,” Thomsen said.
Fitzgerald said he hopes the commission — split evenly between partisan appointees — would at the very least deadlock on such a move and respect the wishes of the Senate.
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