A divided Wisconsin Elections Commission voted Wednesday to retain its embattled leader through early spring, thumbing its nose at state Senate Republicans who a day earlier refused to confirm him. One Republican commissioner joined with three Democratic commissioners to retain Michael Haas as interim administrator through April 30. The 4-2 vote sets up a likely legal fight over whether Haas legally holds the position and whether any decisions he makes are legitimate. “You are creating chaos,” said Dean Knudson, one of the two Republican commissioners who voted against retaining Haas. “What is best for the state is not to reappoint Michael Haas.” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and other Republicans have said they can’t trust either of them because both previously worked for the state Government Accountability Board. The now-defunct agency investigated whether Gov. Scott Walker and others in the GOP violated state campaign laws.
The Senate voted 18-13 along party lines Tuesday to reject confirmation of both Haas and Ethics Commission Administrator Brian Bell. The state Department of Administration sent Haas a letter after the vote saying he could stay at the commission in his old position as staff attorney, a $30,000 pay cut.
Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, has characterized Senate Republicans’ push to oust Haas as a witch hunt and believes the refusal to confirm Haas means nothing because only the commission can fire him. Knudson has countered that the Senate vote clearly means Haas is out as administrator.