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The day after Schmitt was charged with possession of child pornography, the Evers administration sent him a letter asking him to immediately resign.
He did not respond to the letter or subsequent attempts to reach him, Evers’ office says.
State statute dictates that removing a state officer for cause can only be done once a taxpayer files a complaint and a hearing is held.
Without that, the administration’s only recourse over the past two months was to ask Schmitt to leave voluntarily, which he would not do until after Nicholson’s letter.
In late March 2022, the chairman of Wisconsin’s veterans board agreed to resign after being charged with possession of child pornography in January.
Curtis Schmitt Jr.’s resignation came after Republican candidate for governor Kevin Nicholson urged his removal in a letter to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. In the letter, Nicholson blasted Evers for not removing Schmitt earlier.
Nicholson, a Marine veteran who formerly served on the same board, wasted little time claiming victory after news of the resignation broke. In a March 28, 2022 fundraising email, he wrote that he’d accomplished in a day what Evers hadn’t in two months.
"Over the course of two months, Tony Evers refused to remove (Schmitt) from the Board despite having the authority to do (so)," the email said.
But the process of removal isn’t as simple as Nicholson’s email made it sound.
Let’s take a look.
In response to a request for evidence to back his claim, Nicholson’s office called Evers an ineffective governor who "shouldn’t have let this situation perpetuate for as long as it did."
But the Nicholson response also cited the very state statute that made the process more complicated: Wisconsin law dictates that the governor can only remove an appointed state officer for cause after a taxpayer files a complaint against that person and a hearing is held.
Nicholson said his letter should be considered a formal complaint. But even so, that would have meant Evers couldn’t have started Schmitt’s removal process until after Nicholson’s letter was received — two months after Schmitt was charged.
Evers’ communications director Britt Cudaback said in an email that the governor had not received such a complaint from a taxpayer previously and thus did not have the authority to remove him until the Nicholson complaint arrived.
What’s more, Nicholson’s initial statement didn’t just say Evers had left the situation too long in limbo. He said the governor actually refused to remove Schmitt from the board.
That’s inaccurate. The Associated Press reported March 24, 2022 that the Evers administration sent Schmitt a letter the day after he was charged asking him to resign immediately. Schmitt and his representatives did not respond to that letter or subsequent attempts to reach him for the following two months, according to the article.
Cudaback said after that initial letter asking for Schmitt’s resignation, the governor’s office followed up three times with no response, on March 1, March 16 and March 25.
So Evers did not have the authority to remove Schmitt, as Nicholson claimed.
And he also wasn’t refusing to remove him — he was actively pursuing his voluntary resignation.
Nicholson claimed "Over the course of two months, Tony Evers refused to remove (Schmitt) from the Board despite having the authority to do (so)."
But the Evers administration says they made several unsuccessful attempts to get Schmitt to leave voluntarily — their only option without a taxpayer complaint and a hearing. Nicholsons letter itself, two months after news broke, was what would have been enough to trigger a formal removal process.
We rate this claim False.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Chairman of veterans board steps down after being charged with possessing child pornography," March 28, 2022
Kevin Nicholson’s letter to Gov. Tony Evers, March 28, 2022
Wisconsin statute chapter 17, resignations, vacancies and removals from office, accessed March 31, 2022
Associated Press, "Vets’ chair ignores Evers’ demand to quit over porn charges," March 24, 2022
Email exchange with Evers’ communications director Britt Cudaback
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