MADISON —The scandal-plagued Wisconsin Elections Commission sure doesn’t seem to like public scrutiny of its questionable conduct.
Between meeting in closed session to maneuver to remove a Republican member and refusing to appear at this week’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing, WEC’s closed-door policy isn’t helping its cause.
Regardless, the audit committee public hearing, scheduled for noon Tuesday at the Capitol, will go on as scheduled. WEC Chair Ann Jacobs, one of three Democrats on the six-member commission, asked the audit committee to delay the hearing on the Legislative Audit Bureau’s review of the 2020 election — an audit that found WEC routinely failed to follow or broke election law.
Check back with us in December, Jacobs said.
This, of course, is the same Elections Commission that has met twice in the last several days to talk about the audit and to meet in closed session because some commissioners want to remove Republican-appointee Bob Spindell from a case before it. Spindell was one of 10 Republicans who signed paperwork to be named an alternative presidential elector supporting President Donald Trump after he narrowly lost to Joe Biden. Spindell was asked to do so by the Republican Party and the Trump campaign.
The Service Employees International Union filed a complaint with the Elections Commission alleging the Republicans committed fraud. Spindell said he isn’t going anywhere, he was within his rights to sign on to the electors list and as one of three Republicans on the commission his is an important vote.
Jacobs didn’t like Spindell publicly discussing motions made in closed session.
“They weren’t public. Apparently they are now,” she complained.
“What is there to hide?” Spindell said. “Why should we do this in secret? Holding our secret meetings to disqualify me — I cannot imagine anything worse now for our commission.”
That’s how this commission rolls. Lots of behind closed doors meetings for this closed-government regulator.
It’s another black eye for a smug government agency that appears to be in a lot of trouble.
The audit, released late last month, showed multiple times where WEC staff and its commissioners failed to follow state election law or break it. That includes its decision to bar special voting deputies from assisting voting deputies from helping residents of long-term care facilities vote.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling last week recommended the district attorney file felony charges of election fraud and misconduct in office against all commissioners but Spindell for violating the special voting deputies statute. An extensive investigation by the sheriff’s department alleges WEC’s illegal conduct opened the door to nursing home staff forcing or manipulating cognitively impaired senior citizens to vote.
WEC is in the same sinking ship as the clerks in some of Wisconsin’s largest cities, who are subjects of multiple legislative investigations involving administration of the 2020 presidential election. Madison city officials have refused to turn over documents sought by the Legislative Audit Bureau. Others have openly defied subpoenas, following Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ advice that they get “lawyered up.” And many of the liberal city officials as well as WEC have failed to follow Wisconsin’s open records laws.
It’s clear why WEC’s embattled Administrator Meagan Wolfe will be a no-show at Tuesday’s Legislative Audit Committee hearing, an unprecedented move, legislative sources say. The commission has a lot to explain and, it appears, much to hide.