GAB director defends agency; Walker says he’s open to change

GAB director defends agency; Walker says he’s open to change

The head of the board that oversees elections and ethics in Wisconsin said changes are in progress.

Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy defended the agency in a meeting Tuesday, telling the former judges on the board that changes had already been made since the audit was released.

Kennedy presented the findings of the audit to the full board Tuesday morning, following an audit last week showing agency staff delayed years in checking felon voting records and electronic voting equipment, not enforcing some campaign finance laws and not issuing some administrative rules.

“I get a little defensive when they point out that we’re not adhering to the law in terms of how we’re enforcing matters or tracking things,” Kennedy said. “A lot of it has more to do with how the records are organized and how reporting is getting to the board.”

Some judges on the board said the results of the audit were concerning.

“We are a creature of statute, and we owe it to the public and the legislature to fulfill these responsibilities,” Judge Elsa Lamelas said.

“I think this is an important management tool that we’ve got to use,” Judge Harold Froehlich said. “I think it’s the responsibility of the board to understand and watch the follow-through.”

The board voted to ask the GAB to give it a list of all 34 recommendations and report progress at the next two meetings.

Republicans in the Legislature are already planning changes to the board as the session begins in the new year.

Gov. Scott Walker, speaking after lighting the menorah at the executive residence Tuesday, said the audit raised “serious questions.”

“Honestly, I don’t know what the right approach is,” Walker said. “It’s something I’m willing to work with lawmakers on in both parties. Whether it’s modifying the current board, creating something completely new or going back to the model we had of the elections board before, there are pluses and minuses with each of those.”

Walker said he hoped lawmakers would wait until later in the session to deal with GAB changes, allowing them time to comply with some audit recommendations.
Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, who is spearheading GAB legislation in the Assembly, said last week he hoped to bring something forward in January.