Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Former Head of Wisconsin Natural Resources Board Can Stay on the Board

Dr. Fred Prehn, the former head of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, can continue to serve on the policy-making board now that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled it’s legal for him to remain.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul sued to remove Prehn from the NRB in August. The board’s former chair has refused to step down from the policy-making body after his six-year term expired in May last year. Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed Prehn in 2015.

“(T)he expiration of Prehn’s term on the DNR Board does not create a vacancy. Prehn lawfully retains his position on the DNR Board as a holdover,” wrote Chief Justice Annette Ziegler for the majority. “Therefore, the Governor cannot make a provisional appointment to replace Prehn.”

The court found a vacancy is only created when a person dies, resigns, or is removed for cause.

Prehn’s decision to stay on the board has blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ appointee Sandy Nass from taking a seat. Evers appointed Nass and Sharon Adams to the board in April of last year to fill vacancies left by members whose terms expired, including Prehn.

Prehn could remain on the board for years if Republican lawmakers refuse to confirm Evers’ appointee. The state Senate adjourned its latest session earlier this year without confirming Nass.