State Ethics Commission leaders have asked state Senate Republicans to hold a public hearing for their chief administrator, Brian Bell, before voting early next year on whether to confirm him.
The commission’s Democratic chairman, David Halbrooks, and Republican vice chairwoman, Katie McCallum, released the letter to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on Thursday. Halbrooks and McCallum wrote that commissioners “unanimously determined that Mr. Bell’s performance as Administrator exceeded expectations.”
“We would welcome the opportunity to speak to his qualifications before the Senate votes on his confirmation,” they wrote.
Fitzgerald earlier this month threatened to hold Senate confirmation votes in January for Bell and the state’s chief elections official, Michael Haas. Fitzgerald’s office said that could force the administrators out of their positions because he said Senate Republicans won’t vote to confirm them.
Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have called for Bell and Haas to resign, claiming they can’t be trusted to fairly oversee ethics and elections in the state because they used to work for the state’s former ethics and elections agency, the now-defunct Government Accountability Board. Many Wisconsin GOP officials viewed the accountability board as biased toward Democrats because of its role in a now-ended secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.
Haas, meanwhile, has called on Fitzgerald and Vos to apologize, saying they have slandered his name by suggesting former accountability board staff committed a crime in their investigations of Walker and others. Elections Commission chairman Mark Thomsen and the former Republican head of the Accountability Board, David Deininger, also have spoken out on Haas’ behalf.