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Kennedy, Local Clerks Reject Plan To Dismantle Government Accountability Board

Legislators To Take Up Bill Wednesday

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy
Wisconsin Public Television.

The leader of the Government Accountability Board and some municipal election clerks spoke out on Tuesday against a Republican-backed bill designed to eliminate the agency.

State lawmakers want the GAB, a nonpartisan board that now oversees elections and ethics in Wisconsin, split up into two separate commissions dealing with ethics and elections and made up of political appointees. Legislators were taking up a bill to do that on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, six retired judges would be replaced with partisan appointees. GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy would also be gone.

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“As I mentioned, all employees — with the exception of myself — transfer. All positions, with the exception of my position, transfer. So, we lose one full-time equivalent position as a result. The (new) commissions will be down one lawyer,” Kennedy said.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the GAB was praised by municipal clerks, the League of Women Voters and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Sun Prairie city clerk Diane Hermann-Brown worked with both the GAB Board and the agency it replaced. She said the GAB was an improvement over its predecessor, the State Elections Board.

“Elections have advanced over last eight years. Our integrity, our security, accuracy, trust, training, technology have all increased over the last eight years,” she said.

Dane County clerk Scott McDonnell also weighed in with praise. He said the board was independent and professional.

“So, I just think it needs to be said. Power never likes to be checked. And that’s what we’re seeing now,” he said.

However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has called the board a failed experiment.

The GAB was created after the so-called “caucus scandal,” which resulted in several legislative leaders being convicted of criminal misconduct in public office, with some serving jail time.