Newly leaked documents show former Republican Gov. Scott Walker encouraged an environmental appointee not to step down when his term expired to thwart Gov. Tony Evers’ agenda and “racial view of the world” of Democrats.
Fred Prehn, a Wausau dentist and cranberry grower appointed by Walker to the Natural Resources Council in 2015, has refused to step down since his term ended in May 2021.
Senate Republicans have yet to hold a confirmation hearing for his replacement, securing a conservative majority on the board, which oversees the Department of Natural Resources.
Recovered text messages published in the State Journal in response to an open records request show Prehn sought advice from the former governor in November 2020, more than six months before Evers named Sandra Naas to replace him.
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“I heard from lawmakers that they have no plans to confirm anyone soon. And of course the chances of Evers renaming me are slim to none,” Prehn wrote. ask if you think it is inappropriate for me to stay until someone is confirmed. I know this has been done in the past, but is it really the right thing to do?
Prehn went on to say that the shift in board priorities “is becoming staggering” and that if he remained among Walker’s appointees, he would retain a majority “for a while longer.”
“If possible, stay,” Walker replied. “Any voice that can counter their racial worldview is good.”
Walker did not elaborate. A spokesperson for his current organization, Young America’s Foundation, did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
The DNR previously released emails showing Prehn discussed his intention to stay with an aide to Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu, U.S. Representative Tom Tiffany, a Minocqua Republican and fierce DNR critic, and lobbyists. conservatives. No text messages were included in this batch of records.
A DNR attorney said the agency recently received the deleted texts with Walker as part of a lawsuit filed by Midwest Environmental Advocates, which accused Prehn of withholding public records. A Dane County judge this spring denied Prehn’s request to dismiss the case, ruling that his communications regarding his plans are public records.
Prehn has previously denied coordinating with elected GOP leaders, telling The Associated Press that he has never spoken to “currently elected Wisconsin state officials about this” but has spoken to friends and acquaintances”.
Prehn said Wednesday he asked Walker because he appreciated his contribution.
“My concern as to why I may or may not remain on board was mine and mine alone,” Prehn wrote in an email to the State Journal.
The High Court will decide
The state Supreme Court is considering whether Prehn can legally remain in office.
Prehn argues that a 1964 state Supreme Court ruling allows appointees to stay on past the end of their terms until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has asked the courts to force Prehn to resign, arguing that his seat became vacant at the end of his term, and that the law allows the governor to temporarily fill vacancies even without Senate approval. .
Since his term expired, Prehn has voted to reject regulation of toxic PFAS compounds in groundwater and to weaken the agency’s proposed drinking water standards for so-called “eternal chemicals.” He voted last fall to exceed a bag limit recommended by DNR biologists for a wolf hunt that was ultimately abandoned when a federal judge reinstated federal protections.
If allowed to stay, Prehn could also cast a deciding vote on the DNR’s new wolf management plan, which could set population goals and help determine hunting quotas if the gray wolf is removed from the area again. the list of endangered species.