Peter Cameron

3 Technical College System Board Members Won’t Resign

Republican appointees’ terms to serve on state board ended in May 2021 but they won’t step down.

By , The Badger Project - Sep 23rd, 2022 10:40 am
Wisconsin Technical College System board members, from left, Becky Levzow, Kelly Tourdot and Mary Williams, a former Republican state legislator. Their terms ended in May of 2021, but the three refuse to resign.

Wisconsin Technical College System board members, from left, Becky Levzow, Kelly Tourdot and Mary Williams, a former Republican state legislator. Their terms ended in May of 2021, but the three refuse to resign.

Three members of the 13-seat Wisconsin Technical College System board continue to serve in those positions despite their terms ending in May of 2021.

The trio — Becky LevzowKelly Tourdot and Mary Williams, a former Republican state legislator — were all appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican.

In June, the right-leaning majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a Walker-appointed member of the state’s Department of Natural Resources board, Fred Prehn, who had also refused to resign despite his term expiring, could not be removed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers without cause. That court decision opened the door for the three members of the technical college board to remain indefinitely past the ends of their terms.

Reached by phone and asked why she is staying on the board when her term was ended, Williams had the following to say:

“I think it’s a rule,” she said in the short interview before ending it to take another call. “You stay and as soon as the Senate takes up that person, and they go through what they have to do, that’s when I’m gone.”

Levzow, a dairy farmer from Rio and Tourdot, a construction trade association executive from Waunakee, did not return several messages seeking comment.

Regardless of what happens in the Republican-controlled state Senate, board members with expired terms could step down at any time, but the state Supreme Court decision severely restricts the governor’s ability to force them out.

Since Evers became governor in 2019, the state Senate has refused to confirm many of his appointees, including for the DNR board and the technical college board. Evers’ appointees would replace the Republican-appointed members who now refuse to depart the boards despite their terms ending.

And Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said in January the state Senate would not confirm any more for the rest of 2022.

“It’s kind of a sad commentary on the way that politics is going these days,” said Joseph Heim, a UW-La Crosse political science professor emeritus. “It seems to me it’s a groundbreaking tactic that just adds to the overall turmoil in the government in Wisconsin.”

Should Evers win re-election this fall, other Republican-appointed members of state boards might continue the practice of staying on past the expiration of their terms. When reached by The Badger Project in July, two other Walker-appointed members of the DNR board refused to say whether they would step down next year when their terms end. Prehn staying on the board past the end of his term ensures a Republican majority for the time being. And the president of the technical college board Rodney Pasch, who was also appointed by Walker, would not commit to stepping down when his term expires next year, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The terms of state boards are staggered with the intention that an incoming governor from an opposing party cannot immediately remake its membership with their preferred appointees.

But GOP norm-breaking has allowed the political party to maintain control of the DNR board, and could flip other boards to their control sooner if they win the governor’s seat this fall, experts say. A Republican governor’s nominees are likely to be approved by the state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans now and highly unlikely to be retaken by Democrats this year. This is due to the fact that all state legislators must run in district maps drawn by Republicans that maximize their electoral advantage.

Ed Miller, a political science professor emeritus at the UW-Stevens Point, wrote in an email that “my view is a term is a term. Once the term is over, the position is vacant.”

Allowing the past appointee to go beyond the term is unconstitutional by violating the Constitution’s allocation of powers and a violation of the statute that created the term, he wrote.

“The court majority is just making up the decision to adhere to their partisanship,” Miller wrote. “Reflects badly on the court.”

In her majority opinion for the court’s right-leaning bloc, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler wrote that Prehn could stay past the end of his term until his successor is confirmed by the state Senate.

“This conclusion complies with the plain language of the Wisconsin Statutes and does not raise constitutional concerns,” she wrote.

The court’s three left-leaning justices disagreed.

“The majority’s absurd holding allows Prehn’s six-year term on the Board of Natural Resources  — which expired over a year ago — to last for as long as Prehn wants it to, so long as he refuses to leave and the Senate doesn’t confirm a successor nominated by the governor,” Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote in her dissent.

Over a year later, Republican appointees to tech school board still refuse to resign despite expired terms was originally published by The Badger Project.

10 thoughts on “3 Technical College System Board Members Won’t Resign”

  1. Wardt01 says:

    what do their bylaws state regarding their Board? are they voting on business? what is needed for a quorum for the board to conduct business?? any review of the board minutes to help add some insight into this story? why not look into or provide a link to something useful for readers???

    I’d wager these are unpaid positions, and that it’s ikely these volunteers may be trying to help out the board (or thinking they can provide a quorum so that businesses may occur? ) knowing that the kids running our state government wouldn’t be sending any replacements.

    btw: the terms used in this article are misleading. in the real world, a person can’t resign from a position they no longer occupy (ie: a board member is no longer a board member after the last day of their term, and therefore after that date they no longer occupy a position in which to resign from). Same goes for phrases used in the article such as “step down” & “force them out”.

    Most importantly, after their term expires, they are no longer a “board member”. and typically used terms used are “ex board member” or “past board member”. Same goes for the new incoming individuals that are selected/appointed to serve; they aren’t “board members” until.

  2. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Nazi supreme court of WI and its party hate democracy.

  3. jkmoch says:

    This is approach I’d the only way the GOP can retain power – rewrite the rules and if nothing else cheat.

  4. Keith Schmitz says:

    This is yet another reason to put a non-Republican backed justice on the State Supreme Court.

  5. Mingus says:

    Conservative judges make up laws and precedents in order to support the Republican Party while ignoring decades of implied practices based on democratic principles.

  6. frank a schneiger says:

    Democracy ends in big ways, like insurrections, and smaller ones, like this kind of thing. Using race as the always potent wedge issue, Scott Walker moved Wisconsin toward permanent Republican and plutocratic rule. A Michels’ win would pretty much cement it.

    And make permanent policies that try to keep the white base happy by making the lives of “the others” miserable, reinforce plutocratic rule by a handful of super-rich people, ruin the physical environment for short-term profit, and continue to disinvest in the state’s physical infrastructure by promoting tax cuts and the elimination of “onerous regulations” that the plutocrats find inconvenient to their further enrichment.

    It will be the triumph of Trumpism without Trump’s low-class showmanship. And, by the time even some of the hard core realize that they’ve been had, and that it was all a sham, it will be too late. Permanent Republican minority rule means permanent Republican minority rule.

  7. Paul Nannis says:

    They are pathetic…

  8. MilwMike1 says:

    I wish Frank A. Schneiger was wrong but he nailed it. A Michels victory would turn Wisconsin into a mid-50’s Mississippi, but without the antipapism.

  9. ringo muldano says:

    rCons don’t know better. They’ve lied to each other for so long that even the bloated have nothing better to do.

  10. ringo muldano says:

    chunky triple chins and the fat-ladden are hallmarks of rCons. Ugly is as ugly does

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