The leader of the state Department of Natural Resources policy board consulted with Republicans on his decision to stay on the panel after his term expired, emails show.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday that it obtained emails that show Fred Prehn solicited advice and shared information with an aide to Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg; U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua; former University of Wisconsin Regent Gerald Whitburn; and lobbyists.
Prehn’s six-year term on the board ended in May and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers appointed Sandra Naas to replace him. Her appointment would give Evers appointees majority control of the board.
Prehn, who was appointed to his position by former Gov. Scott Walker, has refused to step down to make way for Naas, insisting that he doesn’t need to vacate the seat until the Senate confirms her. LeMahieu has taken no steps toward a confirmation vote, ensuring Walker appointees maintain control of the board.
The Journal Sentinel obtained an email Prehn sent to a LeMahieu aide that includes an attached Legislative Reference Bureau memo explaining a state statute that allows him to retain his seat until his successor is confirmed. The email was a follow-up to a May 25 call between Prehn and LeMahieu’s office. Prehn told a reporter in June he hadn’t heard anything from senators about retaining his seat.
Prehn also corresponded with Tiffany, Madison lobbyist Scott Meyer and Scott Manley, executive vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group. He shared news stories with them about his refusal to step down.
“It’s only going to get worse,” he said in a message to Tiffany and Meyer. “Unbelievable.”
Whitburn urged Prehn to have someone write an editorial explaining why Evers’ environmental agenda would hurt the state. Prehn then forwarded the advice to Meyer.
Prehn said in a June 22 email to Fred Clark, executive director of conservationist group Wisconsin’s Green Fire, that he doesn’t have to step down if the Legislature doesn’t like Evers’ appointments.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul sued Prehn earlier this month in an attempt to force him off the board. Republican legislators and Kansas-based Hunter Nation have moved to join the case. No hearings have been scheduled yet.
The Journal Sentinel reported that Prehn didn’t respond to a request for a comment.