Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald needs to stop acting like a playground bully.
He is waging a vendetta against Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas and Ethics Commission Administrator Brian Bell.
Before Christmas, he and Speaker Robin Vos demanded their resignations, making wildly unfounded accusations against them.
And now Fitzgerald says he will take a vote on Jan. 23 in the state Senate to strip them of their jobs.
But Haas and Bell have done nothing wrong.
Fitzgerald is angry at them because they worked for the former Government Accountability Board, which participated in the John Doe II investigation of Scott Walker. This is guilt by association, and neither one of them was cited by Attorney General Brad Schimel in his recent report on the John Doe II leak.
In fact, Haas and Bell have the unanimous support of the bipartisan members of their respective commissions.
We, at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, along with other good-government groups, have interacted with Haas and Bell on numerous occasions and have always found them to be exceedingly professional.
That’s why 11 good-government groups, including the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and Common Cause in Wisconsin, have denounced Fitzgerald’s attacks in a recent open letter that former Senate Majority Leaders Tim Cullen, a Democrat, and Dale Schultz, a Republican, also signed.
The letter urges Fitzgerald “to call off the scurrilous attacks on Haas, Bell and the commissions they lead.”
It also notes that this is a particularly bad time to try to oust these administrators since this is an important election year. “Unduly trying to dismantle the leadership of the agencies responsible for running our elections and keeping elected officials accountable harms the whole system at a time when our focus should be on boosting voters’ confidence that their vote matters.”
What is most troubling is the vengeful attitude that Fitzgerald is displaying.
He seems to want to make an example of Haas and Bell so that no one will ever dare get in his way—or Walker’s way—again.
What’s more, Fitzgerald says he won’t even allow a public hearing so that Haas and Bell could have an opportunity to defend their good names.
He just wants to get them summarily fired.
Not since the days of Tailgunner Joe McCarthy has an elected official tried so callously to destroy the careers of such decent public servants.
We should not stand for this.
Please call Sen. Fitzgerald’s office (608-266-5600) and tell him to knock off this vendetta and hold a public hearing.
His conduct is beneath contempt. It has no place in “Wisconsin Nice”—and no place in a democracy.