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Lawmakers vote to hire private lawyers in lawsuit over chair of Natural Resources Board

Published: Aug. 21, 2021 at 4:44 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 21, 2021 at 6:18 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WKOW) - Lawmakers have voted to use taxpayer money to hire outside attorneys in a lawsuit over the chair of the Natural Resources Board who is refusing to step down.

The votes came down Friday, and by a party line vote of 6-4, Republicans on the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization approved getting involved in the lawsuit.

Fred Prehn was appointed Chair of the Natural Resources Board by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The board sets the policy for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Although Governor Tony Evers has appointed Sandra Naas as the new chair for the board, the state senate has not held a confirmation hearing for Naas.

RELATED: Evers appoints former legislator to DNR board

Prehn has refused to step down following the end of his term in May, saying he should remain in place until the Senate confirms his replacement, as is state law.

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Department of Justice - led by Attorney General Josh Kaul - filed a lawsuit asking the court to remove Prehn.

RELATED: More groups ask Kaul to remove Natural Resources Board chair

Earlier this years, attorneys for the Humane Society and Center for Biological Diversity asked Kaul to remove Prehn.

Democratic lawmakers say going to the courts is the only thing left for them to do in this case.

“The Attorney General would certainly not have to take action if my colleagues in the legislature, the majority party, would allow us to have public hearings on the confirmations on the appointments that were made by the governor,” said Senator Melissa Agard (D-Madison).

RELATED: Attorney General sues to remove Wisconsin DNR board chairman

In a statement made Friday, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said:

Since Evers was elected, there are still more than 150 of his appointments still awaiting confirmation.

The court battle could shape how the agency approaches many issues, including the fall wolf hunt and limits on PFAS pollution.

RELATED: DNR board members says lawsuit to oust him is political

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