BY STAR JOURNAL STAFF
Retired Oneida County Circuit Judge Robert Kinney has resigned from the state’s partisan Ethics Commission. In a letter released Monday, Kinney wrote that he accepted the appointment in June “wishing the agency would succeed,” and was committed to the goal of enforcing the law regardless of its partisan nature, but found the agency’s structure and rules too secret and inflexible.
The Commission, which replaced the non-partisan Government Accountability Board in July, is made up of six members, three selected by Republicans and three by Democrats; Kinney was appointed by Democrats.
Kinney wrote that when the Commission voted to eliminate language from the mission statement that referred to furthering the state’s tradition of “clean and open government,” he knew “the handwriting was on the wall.”
He praised the work of the non-partisan staff, saying they are some of the “most competent and dedicated civil servants” he has worked with, and credited Chairwoman Peg Lautenschlager for “trying to steer the commission in the direction of even-handed enforcement of the law.”
Kinney ended his comments by saying, “at a time when public confidence in elected officials has been deeply eroded, we should be doubling down on our efforts to enforce campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying laws. When charges of financial or ethical improprieties are leveled, or allegations of quid pro quo corruption are made, they must be thoroughly and timely investigated, and, if warranted, aggressively prosecuted. Sadly, it appears we have created a system which almost guarantees that this will not occur. It would be an enormous injustice to the People of Wisconsin and to the success of our government in serving them if this agency is relegated to shuffling papers.”