- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The head of Wisconsin’s flagship economic development agency pulled a proposal Wednesday to bar board members from publicly sharing information about its operations after backlash from lawmakers.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (https://bit.ly/29OOtAK) Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation CEO Mark Hogan pulled the proposal from the board’s Thursday agenda shortly after the newspaper posted an article about the proposal. Hogan cited feedback from “various board members.”

The proposal would have barred them from talking to reporters or sharing certain information with the public. Complaints of violations would have been investigated by WEDC’s chief legal officer for possible discipline.

Legislators and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council quickly criticized the proposal, saying it could lead to a chilling effect on board members who criticize the agency.

“The board members need to remember that WEDC is a taxpayer-funded governmental entity, not a secret club exempt from public oversight,” Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said in a statement.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, a Kaukana Republican, called it “a bad idea,” saying WEDC needs transparency more than ever.

Hogan sent an email to board members Wednesday afternoon notifying them he would remove the proposal from the agenda but said he’d like to work on a policy that “addresses the issues that have been raised.”

“Providing guidance to directors regarding their board responsibilities is an important part of establishing good governance practices,” Hogan wrote in the email.

WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said the policy was based on protocols at private businesses and public entities.

WEDC has faced frequent scrutiny over its operations since Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers created the agency in July 2011 to replace the Department of Commerce. The agency hasn’t recovered loans made to troubled companies, gave out $126 million without a formal review and has experienced high turnover in top positions.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com


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