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Is tourism chief lawyering up?

 

Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 27,  2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Is Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney lawyering up?

Meaney last week met with Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere), at his Capitol office. She didn’t come alone.

She brought  Gov. Tony Evers’ Legislative Director Stephanie Hilton and Department of Administration attorney Michael Van Sicklen.

Why does the Tourism secretary-designee need to have a DOA attorney with her to meet with a state senator?

Jacque is chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development. He has been asking tough questions about Meaney’s handling of tourism, mainly about concerns she has turned an a-political department into a partisan agency with a liberal agenda.

Jacque has sought answers on last month’s botched elections  of officers on the Governor’s Council on Tourism, conducted online in violation of state statute. Meaney also has been accused of trying to force out Kathy Kopp, a long-time member of the council and one of two members nominated to serve as council chair.

Meaney has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Jacque and other Republicans have said Meaney faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate.

It doesn’t appear much has changed on that front for the tourism committee chairman.

“I’ve had serious concerns, and now I have additional concerns about questions not answered” in his meeting with Meaney and the Evers administration big guns.

Sources say Van Sicklen has presented himself as a nonpartisan observer, assisting only because the tourism council doesn’t have an attorney.

But Van Sicklen, a retired partner and former trial lawyer with Foley and Lardner LLP, has been very active in liberal politics.

According to campaign finance records, he contributed $6,200 to Evers election campaign, and cut Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett a $5,000 check for his failed campaign against Gov. Scott Walker in the 2012 recall election. He’s backed other Democrats as well.

Van Sicklen has also been involved in various environmental efforts as board president of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. 

A tourism spokeswoman did not answer Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment.

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