Wisconsin Treasurer Matt Adamczyk has decided that staffers in the state's tiny public lands agency are no longer allowed to talk about global warming. They've been ordered to not respond to citizens' emails related to climate change, and to altogether avoid the subject while they're at work.
Why take a pretend-it-doesn't-exist position on the greatest environmental issue of our time? Turns out it all stems from Adamczyk's beef with executive director Tia Nelson, who has a passionate history with global warming.
Nelson is the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a pioneering force behind Earth Day. She was appointed to former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle's global warming task force in 2007, traveling to Washington D.C. on her own dime to testify at a congressional hearing.
After all these years, Nelson's old job has left an uncomfortable taste in Adamczyk's mouth. He admits Nelson hasn't done additional global warming advocacy on official time in recent years, but he wanted to make sure that she continued to keep her mouth shut.
"I don't vote on legislation regarding climate change. I don't care to engage in the topic," Adamczyk says. "I'm the state treasurer who works on fiscal matters. I don't care to discuss the merits of global warming. There are no bills before the state legislature talking about it, so there's nothing to talk about."
To Nelson, the gag order is just Adamczyk's latest move to further a petty personal drama. It started in mid-November when Adamczyk ordered her to take her name off the agency stationery. He hadn't been sworn in yet and she hadn't even met him at the time.
Then Adamczyk requested Nelson's phone records over the past five years, her travel records, and agency expenditures. She complied with everything, she says.
"Every day he gets up and tries to figure out another way to embarrass me, sully my name, or hurt this agency," a thoroughly fed-up Nelson says. "That's what he does, every single day. He's just apoplectic."
Along with Adamczyk, the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands includes Attorney General Brad Schimel and Secretary of State Douglas La Follette. Schimel sided with Adamczyk, but La Follette thinks the 2-1 vote to gag agency workers is basically nuts.
"Obviously him and I have a huge difference," Adamczyk says. "Maybe Douglas La Follette thinks that we should be concerned with [climate change], but I don't see why that would be. That's not what our job over here is to do."
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