UNDATED (WSAU) The state D-N-R’s Number-three official arranged to settle a violation against an Oconomowoc waste hauler, instead seeking prosecution from the Justice Department.
Former D-N-R Secretary George Meyer called it a case of political influence unlike any he’s ever seen. The Wisconsin State Journal said Scott Gunderson asked prosecutors last year to fine Herr Environmental $4,300. It was the minimum penalty for a waste-spreading violation that the paper said could have resulted in a $40,000 fine had the Justice agency handled it.
A D-N-R memo said Herr spread three times as much human waste from septic tanks onto farm fields than its permit allowed. And an agency investigator said it was so excessive, it threatened poisoning up to 40 private water wells nearby. Gunderson said his action forced the company into compliance faster-and-better than the Justice Department might have done. Gunderson received $750 campaign donation from Herr’s owner when he served as a Republican in the state Legislature. But an official said Gunderson did not violate ethics laws, because he was not in the Assembly at the time. Gunderson said it didn't influence his decision anyway.
The State Journal also said one of Herr’s legislators, Assembly Republican Joel Kleefisch, pushed for lenience. But D-N-R Secretary Cathy Stepp said last night that the agency never cut its number of violations due to Kleefisch’s contact. And Stepp said quote, “Our administration holds itself to the highest ethical standards.”