Former Secretary-designee of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Brad Pfaff is the first Wisconsin Cabinet appointee since at least 1987 to be rejected by the Wisconsin State Senate.
In that aftermath, Republican legislators say Department of Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney could be the second.
Meany has come under fire for the Governor’s Council on Tourism’s use of an online poll to elect officers and members of its marketing committee. The Department of Justice says that using email and other internet-based tools to vote violates the state’s open meetings law.
Beyond issues regarding the online poll, Senator André Jacque of DePere, who is a member of that council, says he is concerned about an allegation that Meany has pressured Kathy Kopp to resign from her position as early as this December.
“I was very disturbed to hear that it was multiple phone calls and multiple occasions within those phone calls where she was basically asked to step aside so that somebody more diverse could be put in her place,” Jacque says.
In an interview with WTMJ yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald described the move as an attempt to manipulate the department.
“She’s politicized the Department of Tourism,” he says. “I don’t have any facts on that, I don’t have anything to say really, ‘Yes, I was [the] first person with knowledge of that, but there’s press reports now that are coming out that that’s happening, and that’s not a department that should be politicized at all. It hasn’t been in the past whether it was a Democrat governor or a Republican governor, and I hope she can reel that in and figure out a way of building confidence with the Republican Senate.”
Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan also spoke with WTMJ yesterday. He says there’s a political hit job on Meany.
“Maybe once during her tenure over the last ten months, there was an occasion on which they did things the wrong way,” Brennan argues. “The precedent for doing this was set in the previous administration by her predecessor, authorized by her predecessor, [and] probably done for eight years under her predecessor. Sarah and the Department of Tourism own the fact they did this wrong, they’re fixing it, they’re moving forward, they’re working on tourism for the whole State of Wisconsin, and [Scott Fitzgerald] said this is not something that should be politicized. Everybody from the Governor on down would absolutely agree to that.
Kopp is currently the director of the Platteville Regional Chamber. While she intends to leave that position, she has said she will not leave the tourism council until her term expires in July 2021.
Meany is one of ten Secretary-designees waiting to be confirmed by the state Senate. The legislature has confirmed five,and rejected one,of Evers’ Cabinet picks.
Meany and Kopp could not be reached for comment by the time of broadcast.