Members of the state Ethics Commission have decided not to appoint a new administrator for the agency, for the time being.
The 5-1 vote follows the Senate’s decision earlier this week to reject the confirmation of interim administrator Brian Bell. Ethics Commission Chairman David Halbrooks said he wants to wait and see how a looming legal fight plays out over the re-appointment of Elections Administrator Mike Haas, who also had his confirmation denied.
“I want Brian Bell back here as soon as possible, whether that’s at the end of litigation or after the November elections,” he said.
The Senate rejected Haas and Bell’s nominations over concerns about their ability to be impartial, which were sparked by a Department of Justice investigation that tied the leak of records from a secret John Doe investigation to the former Government Accountability Board. Neither Haas nor Bell were accused of wrongdoing in the report, although both worked at the former AB prior to taking their current positions.
The decision would delay action on appointing an interim administrator for 45 days. Halbrooks said they could revisit the issue when the commission meets in late February.
Commissioner Pat Strachota, a former Republican lawmaker, voted against the delay. She argued that the Senate has spoken, even if she disagrees with their decision, and does not believe any legal decision will change the circumstances. “There’s no way that either one of those individuals would be confirmed by the Senate,” she argued.
Bell has already returned to his former job at the state Department of Safety and Professional Services. He did not respond to a request for comment.