Lawmakers call for legislative investigation of DNR enforcement

Records: Rep. spent campaign money on convertible, triathlon

Democratic state lawmakers are calling for a legislative investigation, along with hearings open to the public, to explore the state Department of Natural Resources’ actions in a case involving an Oconomowoc sewage company.

The 12 legislators are requesting a public hearing after Herr Environmental was potentially poisoning drinking water wells by dumping human waste nearby.

The lawmakers said they want to investigate the DNR’s enforcement of the case, citing a Wisconsin State Journal article that reported Scott Gunderson, top political appointee at the DNR, received political contributions from the owner Herr Environmental and his wife in 2006 and 2008.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Gunderson decided to handle a complaint against Herr Environmental internally rather than sending the complaint to the state Department of Justice for prosecution.

The DNR’s enforcement staff had urged that the case be referred to DOJ. The Justice Department could have imposed fines of tens of thousands of dollars.

Instead, Gunderson decided to ask district attorneys in Waukesha and Jefferson counties to issue five citations against Herr Environmental and fine the Oconomowoc company $4,338.

“We want to get the facts out, in a full forum, in broad daylight, and actually give the DNR secretary, who sent out a rabid email on Sunday night, give her a chance to come testify,” said Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp wrote in that email that of this company was in line with other first-time violators.

Gunderson has defended the decision to issue citations. He said it could force the company into compliance faster rather than waiting for the Justice Department to act.

“One of the many questions we need answered is how extensive the human waste spreading was, and how many wells were polluted,” said Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, who represents the affected area. “This issue has raised a lot of questions and we would like to get some answers for the people of Wisconsin.”

“This story shows that Gov. Walker’s administration is ignoring our drinking water and environmental laws by letting polluters and political donors off with a slap on the wrist,” Hulsey said in a news release.

Hulsey, a member of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, said he’ll schedule a hearing if one isn’t scheduled by Monday.