Wisconsin board bans employees from global warming work

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2015 5:48 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin board has banned its employees from working on global warming issues on state time in what's become a bitter feud between a Republican board member and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson's daughter.

The three-member Board of Commissioners of Public Lands voted 2-1 on Tuesday to institute the ban on its nine employees, with the lone Democrat on the board casting the dissenting vote.

Republican State Treasurer Matt Adamcyzk proposed the ban, saying he's upset that the board's executive secretary, Tia Nelson, worked on global warming issues on board time years ago. He said the topic has nothing to do with the board's mission of generating investment dollars for public school libraries and providing loans for municipal and school projects.

"We just did a simple resolution that board employees aren't to be working on global warming. I don't think that's a stretch," Adamcyzk said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Nelson is the daughter of former Wisconsin Gov. Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat known for his staunch conservationism and his efforts to found Earth Day. Former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle tapped Tia Nelson to serve as co-chair of his global warming task force in 2007 while she was working at the BCPL. The task force wrapped up its work in 2008.

Nelson declined comment Wednesday, saying the board has forbidden her from talking about anything linked to global warming.

She told Adamcyk during Tuesday's meeting that none of the previous commissioners had a problem with her serving on the task force and she didn't think serving at a governor's request would be objectionable, according to audio recordings of the proceedings.

She hasn't actively worked on global warming since the task force disbanded seven years ago, she said. She added that she typically works as long as she must to complete her board responsibilities, including evenings and weekends.

"I have never lobbied on climate change on state time in the entire 10 years I've been at the board of commissioners," she said.

Adamcyzk responded that he doesn't want employees spending board time at five-hour meetings in the future. He said if Nelson were to receive any questions or emails about global warming she should refer them to the commissioners.

"I've never seen such nonsense," Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette said before voting against the ban.

The other commissioner is Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel. He issued a statement Wednesday defending his vote for the ban, saying it would be irresponsible to let government employees engage in any political activity at work and global warming has nothing to do with the board.

According to board meeting minutes, Adamcyzk called for a vote to fire Nelson in early March. He accused her of "time theft" for attending task force meetings on board time, specifically pointing to a day she spent in Washington, D.C., in 2009 testifying on global warming before a House subcommittee on energy and the environment.

The vote failed 2-1.

Nelson said during Tuesday's meeting that she spent only about two hours testifying on global warming in Washington and spent the rest of her 12-hour day in the city on board business.