Wisconsin Elections Commission Votes To Retain Michael Haas As Administrator

Panel Voted 4-2 Wednesday To Keep Haas In His Positition Through April 30

Michael Haas
Scott Bauer/AP Photo

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has voted to retain Michael Hass as its interim administrator through April even though the state Senate has refused to confirm him for the job.

The panel voted 4-2 Wednesday to keep Haas in his position through April 30.

The vote came a day after the Senate voted 18-13 to reject his confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and other Senate Republicans said they couldn’t trust Haas because he previously worked for the now-disbanded Government Accountability Board, which investigated Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.

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Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen said Haas has done an impeccable job with the state Elections Commission and deserves to keep his job.

Commissioner Dean Knudson, who voted against keeping Haas, warned that retaining him even though the Senate rejected him invites legal challenges. He said the commission needs an administrator who isn’t under a “cloud.”

“This is a terrible mistake,” Knudson said. “If you read (the) law, when a vacancy occurs the elections commission has power to appoint for 45 days. If not, Legislature can do it. You are picking a fight with (the) Legislature you can’t win. The position is vacant right now. You can appoint a new administrator, and Michael is not new he’s been rejected by Senate.”

The board is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

As for what happens to Haas after April 30, Thomsen said, “we’ll find out.”

“I certainly think Michael Haas is the best qualified person who should be driving this agency. Until I hear he’s not competent, I maintain that position,” Thomsen said.

Earlier Tuesday, Fitzgerald said he hoped the commission doesn’t vote to re-appoint Haas.

Fitzgerald and Republicans voted Tuesday to remove Haas and Wisconsin Ethics Commission Administrator Brian Bell.

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 4:19 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.