Democratic members of the state Assembly's Natural Resources Committee have scheduled a public hearing Wednesday to look into how the state Department of Natural Resources handled an enforcement case against an Oconomowoc waste hauler.
"It's clear there are a lot of questions about what the DNR did and at what level," said Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, a committee member.
The request comes after a State Journal story showed a top political appointee at the agency saw to it that Richard Herr, owner of Herr Environmental Inc., was not prosecuted by the Justice Department for submitting inaccurate records and spreading waste in excess of legal limits.
Instead, DNR executive assistant Scott Gunderson approved five citations and a minimum fine against Herr. Gunderson, while serving as a Republican state representative, received $750 in campaign contributions from Herr.
Hulsey said all six Democrats on the Assembly Natural Resources Committee are sponsoring the public hearing. The majority of the 15 committee members are Republicans.
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"We asked for a full committee hearing, and the majority would not grant that," Hulsey said.
Committee chairman Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, was not immediately available for comment.
Hulsey said the legislators want to hear from residents living near the Jefferson County farm fields where the waste was spread. "Several have said they can't even go in their backyards or hang the wash because the stench is so bad," he said.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp has been invited to participate, Hulsey said. A DNR spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. Last week, DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said "any such hearings would be a waste of time."
The hearing is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday in Room 300 Northeast of the state Capitol. Hulsey said he expects it to go several hours.
Monday, a vice president at Herr Environmental told members of the Concord Town Board in Jefferson County that excess human waste was not spread on fields. Rather, he said he made a "paperwork mistake."