State Supreme Court to take up case of embattled DNR leader

Dnr Won’t Participate In Meeting Amidst Appointee Fight
Paul A. Smith

In this Dec. 10, 2019, photo is Fred Prehn of Wausau, Wis., who is facing increasing calls to vacate his seat on the Natural Resources Board. His term expired May 1, 2021, but a rarely-used rule allows him to stay on until the Senate confirms his replacement. Department of Natural Resources officials have taken the unprecedented step of refusing to participate in its policy board meeting this month amidst a fight over whether the panel's chairman must step down.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to consider whether the state Department of Natural Resources policy board’s leader can continue to hold his seat months after his term expired.

Fred Prehn, a Wausau dentist, was appointed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2015. Although his term ended May 1, he has refused to step down, denying Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ appointee Sandra Naas a seat and maintaining a 4-3 majority for Republican appointees.

The justices cited the important legal issues and the functional capacity of the DNR among reasons to hear the case, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Prehn argued that a 1964 state Supreme Court ruling means he does not have to leave until Naas is confirmed by the Senate. However, Republicans who control the chamber have made no move to set a confirmation hearing or answer questions about whether they plan to do so.

Attorney General Josh Kaul asked the courts to force Prehn to step down. Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn said that while she wasn’t condoning Prehn’s actions, she dismissed the case due to the Supreme Court precedent.

Kaul then asked the Supreme Court to take the case and bypass the court of appeals in order to address “time-sensitive issues” raised by Prehn’s refusal to step down. Prehn also asked the high court to hear the case, saying it would provide an opportunity to clarify the so-called hold over rule.