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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, says the head of Wisconsin’s elections agency “has to go.”

But Gov. Scott Walker says the issue isn’t on his radar.

Vos harshly criticized Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the state Government Accountability Board, both on Tuesday at a luncheon in Madison and again Wednesday during an interview with the State Journal.

“I’m really disappointed in the way the GAB operates,” Vos said in the interview. “And my understanding is it goes back to Kevin Kennedy.”

Vos has been increasingly critical of the accountability board in recent months, and this week he began calling for its leader to be ousted.

“Kevin Kennedy has to go. He needs to be gone,” Vos said at a luncheon Tuesday. “He is an embarrassment, and I can’t say it any more emphatically than I am right now.”

Vos also repeated his vow that the GAB will not exist in its current form for much longer.

“I promise you that two years from now, when we are sitting here, the GAB will not be in the current format,” Vos said. “It is dysfunctional, it is unresponsive, and it is totally undemocratic.”

Walker said Wednesday that he hasn’t spoken with Vos about overhauling the accountability board.

“It’s not even on my radar,” Walker told reporters after speaking to a bioscience conference at Monona Terrace in Madison. “From our standpoint, we’ll certainly look at it. But for us, it’s just not a priority.”

The nonpartisan board is made up of six former judges. Members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Vos was especially critical of Kennedy, who oversees the board’s staff on elections and ethics issues, over a newly redesigned model ballot, which he and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, unsuccessfully challenged in court.

Vos said the ballot was really only “the last straw,” noting other concerns he’s had over issues involving the board in recent years. He also mentioned the GAB’s handling of recalls — saying the board was too resistant to identify and strike duplicate and fictitious signatures — and the John Doe probe into possible illegal coordination between Walker and conservative groups.

Vos added that he hopes to launch into serious discussions about overhauling the GAB in early 2015.

“We are not going to respond to personal comments,” Kennedy said in a statement. “We are focused on administering the upcoming election.”

Kennedy added that there were “several factual errors” in Vos’ comments, and said the GAB was developing a way to “advise the speaker and members of the Legislature of the correct information.”


State Government Reporter for Wisconsin State Journal