Judge Dismisses Lawsuit to Impeach Wisconsin DNR Chairman | News, Sports, Jobs



In this December 10, 2019 photo, Fred Prehn of Wausau, Wisconsin, faces increasing calls to quit his seat on the Natural Resources Council. His term expired on May 1, 2021, but a rarely used rule allows him to stay until the Senate confirms his replacement. Officials at the Department of Natural Resources made the unprecedented decision to decline to attend its board meeting this month amid a fight over whether the committee chair should step down. (Paul A. Smith / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – A Wisconsin judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit to remove the head of the state’s natural resources department from office, even though his term is over.

Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn has ruled against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul in his lawsuit to force Fred Prehn out of the board. Kaul said he would appeal.

Prehn, a dentist from Wausau, was appointed by former Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2015. Although his term ended on May 1, he refused to resign, refusing Sandra Naas, appointed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers , one seat and now a 4-3 majority for the Republican candidates.

Prehn argued that a 1964 State Supreme Court ruling means he doesn’t have to leave until Naas is confirmed by the Senate, but Republicans who control the chamber did nothing done to schedule a confirmation hearing or answer questions about their intention to do so.

Citing the state’s Supreme Court precedent, the judge granted Prehn’s request to dismiss the case, although she said she was not “Approving the actions of Prehn”, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“The Court cannot help but think that the citizens of Wisconsin are the losers when the legislature does not hold confirmation and other hearings in a timely manner,” he added. Bailey-Rihn wrote. “A timely confirmation hearing would have eliminated the need for state reporting and saved the taxpayer attorney fees incurred in this case. “

More than 150 people appointed by Governor Tony Evers are still awaiting Senate approval, and more than two-thirds of them have been waiting for more than 100 days. Many have been waiting for almost three years.

Prehn told the State Journal he was happy with the judge’s order and urged lawmakers to “Continue with the confirmation process. “

“It’s their end of the stick,” said Prehn. “They have to do it, or maybe the governor has to try another candidate.”

In the meantime, Prehn has said he intends to stay on the board and said he hopes ministry staff will engage with the “Legally appointed council”.

Prehn canceled the September meeting after a senior MNR official told him no one from the agency would attend.

Environmental and conservation groups including the Sierra Club, Midwest Environmental Advocates and the River Alliance of Wisconsin last month called on Kaul to take legal action to force Prehn to leave. They fear his presence on the board will extend the Conservatives’ control over the DNR, resulting in more decisions that favor businesses and farms over the environment and wildlife.

Democrats’ frustrations over Prehn’s refusal to resign came to a head last month when the board voted 5-2 to set the quota for this fall’s wolf hunt at 300 animals. MNR biologists have recommended setting the limit at 130 wolves, saying the impact of a February hunt on the wolf population is not yet clear.

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