GOP Senator circulates petition to fire Evers' parole commissioner

NOW: GOP Senator circulates petition to fire Evers’ parole commissioner

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MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- Senate Republicans are at odds over an attempt to fire Gov. Tony Evers' parole commissioner, John Tate, whose job is in question after he granted parole to a man who was convicted of murdering his wife in front of their children.

John Tate, Evers' appointee to lead the parole commission, recently reversed his decision to parole Douglas Balsewicz, who was on track to be released nearly 60 years before his sentence was up after he stabbed his estranged wife while their children watched.

It happened after Gov. Evers and the victim's family, who visited the state Capitol last week, put pressure on Tate to rescind his decision that could have set Balsewicz free.

Republicans have called on Evers to remove Tate from office. A spokeswoman for Evers did not respond to a request for comment. Tate's office did not return messages.

Now, State Sen. Roger Roth is taking matters into his own hands in hopes to remove Tate by circulating a petition, a unique maneuver to bring lawmakers back to Madison and force a vote on whether Tate should keep his job.

"A convicted murder, who hasn't even served a third of his sentence, and we in the Legislature have an opportunity to hold the administration accountable," Roth said. "We have the mechanism we're pushing right now to get 17 signatures to make this a reality."

Roth said he has five signatures as of Thursday. He will need more in order to compel lawmakers to convene in a special session to vote on Tate's future.

Several of Evers' appointments have not been confirmed by the Senate, including Tate's. Senators can reject appointments and cabinet secretaries - basically firing them.

Roth also has to convince Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu who opposes the idea and rather force Evers to deal with the political ramifications.

“The State Senate will not bail Tony Evers out from his soft-on-crime record. He should either withdraw his appointment or have to answer to the voters," LeMahieu said to Wisconsin Right Now.

LeMahieu is facing pressure from members of his own caucus and conservative radio host Mark Belling, who told listeners Tuesday he's "cowering like a little bitch."

State Sen. Steve Nass said in a statement, "Now, Senate Republican leaders have refused to take action that is within our authority."

If Roth's petition is successful, a floor session would be held on May 26th. It also wouldn't mark the first time one of Evers' appointments was rejected by the Senate.

In 2019, Senate Republicans voted to reject the confirmation of Brad Pfaff, the head of Wisconsin's Agriculture agency, in a controversial vote that fueled an already rocky relationship between Gov. Evers and GOP leaders.

At the time, it marked the first time since 1987, a governor's secretary was rejected by the Senate, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. Evers made a rare appearance on the Senate floor during the debate and called the move "unprecedented."

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