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The Latest: Bell, Haas still state employees after vote

The Wisconsin State Capitol dome in Madison is seen, Aug. 24, 2017. (WLUK/Courtney Ryan)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Latest on efforts to remove Wisconsin Ethics and Elections commission administrators (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

The ousted leaders of the state Ethics and Elections commissions remain employed as state employees.

Department of Administration spokesman Steve Michels says Elections leader Michael Haas remains employed as an attorney for the commission. And he says Ethics administrator Brian Bell can return to his previous job within the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The Senate voted Tuesday to reject their confirmations as leaders of the Ethics and Elections commissions. State employee laws allowed them to return to previous jobs they held.

Both commissions are meeting later this week to discuss next steps, including hiring interim directors.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he hopes the commissions won't re-hired Bell and Haas as interim directors.

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5:30 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says it will be hard to develop any kind of cooperative relationship with the state Ethics or Elections commissions as long as they include certain former staff from the Government Accountability Board.

That is the now-disbanded agency that investigated Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.

The Senate on Tuesday voted to reject confirmation of Ethics administrator Brian Bell and Elections leader Brian Bell.

But Fitzgerald says other former GAB employees at the Ethics and Elections commissions may be forced out by having their jobs reclassified.

Fitzgerald says there is a perception that lawmakers can't trust some former GAB workers who were involved in the Walker investigation.

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5:05 p.m.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says administrators of the Elections and Ethics are no longer state employees after the Senate voted to reject their confirmation.

Fitzgerald said Tuesday that Michael Haas at Elections and Brian Bell at Ethics had their state computer access shut down and they are no longer on the payroll.

Both commissions are meeting later this week to discuss next steps, including appointing interim directors.

Fitzgerald says he hopes Republican appointees on the bipartisan commissions would vote against naming either Bell or Haas to those spots. But if they were appointed as interim directors, Fitzgerald wouldn't say whether he would pursue legal action.

Fitzgerald says he's also looking at reclassifying jobs at the commissions to force out others who worked for the previous Government Accountability Board.

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3:40 p.m.

Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Michael Haas says even though the Senate rejected his confirmation, he would consider serving as interim leader of the agency if appointed.


The commission was to meet Wednesday to discuss its next steps.


The Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines Tuesday to reject confirmation of both Haas and Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell. They have been working in the jobs for more than a year.

Haas says he doesn't know if the vote creates a vacancy. He says he will be at work on Wednesday to see what next steps the commission wants to make

Ethics Commission Chairman David Halbrooks says the panel will meet Thursday to consider the appointment of an interim administrator. Halbrooks says legal options also will have to be explored.

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2:45 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has rejected confirmation of the leaders of the Elections and Ethics commission, despite unanimous bipartisan support from the boards that hired them.

The Senate voted 18-13 Tuesday against confirming Elections administrator Michael Haas and Ethics administrator Brian Bell.

All Republicans voted to reject confirmation while all 13 Democrats opposed it.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he's lost confidence in both men's ability to be nonpartisan. They've held the posts since mid-2016.

Both previously worked for the Government Accountability Board, which Republicans disbanded in 2015 after it investigated Gov. Scott Walker and other conservative groups.

Government watchdog groups have threatened to sue to keep Bell and Haas in their jobs.

The bipartisan Elections and Ethics commissions unanimously supported keeping Haas and Bell as their leaders.

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2:30 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has voted to reject confirmation of Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell, a move designed to force him out of his job.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 18-13 Tuesday against confirming Bell on a strictly party-line vote. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he had no confidence in Bell's ability to be nonpartisan in the post he's held since mid-2016.

An investigation ordered by the Ethics Commission found no evidence that Bell was partisan.

Bell has said the vote means he's fired. But government watchdog groups have suggested they may challenge the move in court.

The Senate was also expected to reject confirmation of Elections Commission head Michael Haas.

Democratic Sen. Mark Miller initially voted with Republicans in a procedural move that he thought would allow for reconsideration of the vote, but Senate rules did not permit that so he switched to join all other Democrats in voting against rejecting confirmation.

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2 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has voted to reject confirmation of Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell, a move designed to force him out of his job.

The Senate voted 19-12 Tuesday against confirming Bell, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting to reject.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he did not have confidence in Bell's ability to be nonpartisan in the post he's held since mid-2016.

An investigation ordered by the Ethics Commission determined there was "not a scintilla of evidence" that Bell was partisan.

Bell has said the vote means he's fired. But government watchdog groups have suggested they may challenge the move in court.

The Senate was also expected to reject confirmation of Elections Commission head Michael Haas.

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12:12 p.m.

Elections Commissioner administrator Michael Haas is disputing that Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told him his job would be interim only.

Fitzgerald said during Senate debate Tuesday that he told both Haas and Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell when they were first hired that they shouldn't count on holding the jobs permanently. Fitzgerald says he thought they would have both resigned and moved on by now.

But Haas says on Twitter that Fitzgerald never told him his appointment would be interim or short term. Bell was watching the debate from the Senate gallery.


The Republican-controlled Senate was expected to vote Tuesday to reject confirmation of both Bell and Haas. Both of the bipartisan boards that hired them unanimously support them.

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10:20 a.m.

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission agreed to pay up to $25,000 for an investigation into whether its administrator Brian Bell acted in a partisan manner.

The commission has not yet been billed by the Madison law firm that conducted the probe. The commission released the fee agreement Tuesday after Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald asked for the costs.

Results of the investigation were released Monday night, hours before the Senate was to vote on whether to confirm Bell.

The report determined there was "not a scintilla of evidence" Bell acted in a partisan manner.

The hourly fee of attorneys who investigated Bell ranged from $275 to $495. Former federal prosecutor Patrick Fiedler led the probe and charged $350 an hour.

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9:47 a.m.

Wisconsin Ethics Commission administrator Brian Bell says he's done all he can to save his job, but he still doesn't know which way the Senate will vote.

Bell said he plans to be in the Senate gallery for the vote late Tuesday morning or early afternoon. Bell says, "We've done everything we can to make our case."

The Ethics Commission late Monday released the results of an investigation it ordered into Bell that found no evidence he had acted in a partisan manner. Republican Senate leaders have said Bell's confirmation will be rejected over concerns about partisanship.

Bell says he's not heard from any senators since the report came out. He says, "It's going to be an interesting day."

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8:30 a.m.

An investigation by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission has determined there is no evidence that its administrator Brian Bell has acted in a partisan manner.

The report released Monday night comes before a scheduled Tuesday vote in the Senate on whether to confirm Bell. Republican leaders have said they've lost faith in his ability to be nonpartisan and his confirmation will be rejected.


Senate Republicans are also expected to reject confirmation of Elections Commission administrator Michael Haas.

Republican anger stems in part from Haas and Bell previously working for the now-disbanded Government Accountability Board which had investigated Gov. Scott Walker and other conservative groups.

The Ethics Commission investigation determined there was "not a scintilla of evidence" Bell acted in a partisan manner.

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12:45 a.m.

Republicans still smarting from a secret John Doe investigation into conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker scheduled a dramatic vote to oust leaders of the bipartisan state agencies charged with running elections and overseeing ethics laws.

The Senate was scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to confirm Michael Haas as Elections Commission administrator and Brian Bell as leader of the Ethics Commission.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said they will not be confirmed, a highly unusual public rebuke of agency heads who have unanimous backing from the commissions that hired them.

The motivating force behind Republican anger with Haas and Bell is their past work with the Government Accountability Board. The Legislature disbanded the GAB in 2015 amid anger over its role investigating Republican Walker and conservative groups.

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