No one in Wisconsin has been more forceful in demanding changes to the state’s Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying, than Robin Vos. The Republican Assembly Speaker has deemed the GAB “dysfunctional” and called its director and general counsel, Kevin Kennedy, an “embarrassment” who “needs to be gone.” His critique has been long on vitriol but short on specifics. Vos likes that the board, which the Legislature created in 2007, is led by six former judges appointed by the governor to staggered six-year terms. But he feels these judges are being manipulated by Kennedy and other staff into serving as “a rubber stamp.” “The GAB judges are not in charge, and that has to change,” Vos said recently. Kennedy, noting in an interview that the board has at times overruled staff, is not aware of any board support for legislative intervention. He considers Vos’ comments “an insult to the board members.” The judges seem inclined to agree.
Board Chair Thomas Barland finds Vos’ criticism “grossly exaggerated and sensationalized.” Gerald Nichol, a board member since 2008, says he’s “never felt misled” by staff. Both praise Kennedy, whom only the board can remove.
Barland, a former Republican lawmaker, laments that in his five years on the GAB “no member of either house of the Legislature has contacted me before making public calls for changes in how the board operates.” Nichol, a former Republican district attorney, sees a need to tweak some GAB rules but is likewise miffed that lawmakers “never come to us” for input.
In other words, the judges Vos says he’s looking out for disagree with his analysis and resent lawmakers’ failure to get their input — the very thing Vos accuses GAB staff of doing.
Full Article: Vos’ attacks on elections, ethics watchdog draw fire.