Ethics Commission

The Republican leaders of the Legislature have called for Brian Bell to resign in the wake of the Justice Department's John Doe leak investigation.

M.P. KING, STATE JOURNAL

The state Ethics Commission has cast a formal, unanimous vote of confidence in its administrator, Brian Bell, amid threats by Republican legislative leaders to force him out.

The commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.

GOP lawmakers have made a similar threat to oust the administrator of the state Elections Commission, Michael Haas.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he will hold a Senate vote Jan. 23 to reject their confirmations. Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, also has rejected calls from the commissions to hold public hearings on the administrators’ performance.

The Republican legislative leaders have said the problem with Bell and Haas is that both are former employees of the now-defunct Government Accountability Board and there is concern about “partisan influence” leftover from that agency.

Bell, asked by commissioners at a Thursday meeting why he left the accountability board, said he departed in part because “I didn’t necessarily always agree with how things operated.”

Democratic commissioner Jeralyn Wendelberger said she doesn’t undersatnd what concerns about partisanship apply to Bell.

“We still are in the dark as to those allegations,” Wendelberger said.

The Republican lawmakers’ call for Bell and Has to resign came immediately after Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel released a sweeping report on leaked records from a now-shuttered secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign. The backlash from that so-called “John Doe” investigation was what led to the dissolution of the accountability board.

The Attorney General’s report recommended disciplinary action for nine public officials in connection with the investigation — none of whom are Bell or Haas.

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