RHINELANDER - Two months ago, retired Rhinelander Judge Robert Kinney fired off strong words while announcing his resignation from the state's Ethics Commission.
He criticized the attitude, secrecy, and inaction of the new board, which was created to oversee campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws in Wisconsin.
Kinney seems to share frustrations with another retired Rhinelander judge, Tim Vocke.
"[The Ethics Commission] was doomed to failure, in my opinion," Vocke said. "It was simply ignoring eight years of success and going back to the bad old days."
Vocke served during five of the eight years that the Government Accountability Board existed. Five retired judges at a time joined him on the panel.
The GAB was created in 2008, replacing the state Ethics and Elections boards, which had been around since 1973. Legislators created the GAB in response to partisan caucus scandals in the 2000s.
But in 2015, Republicans in power in Madison voted to scrap the nonpartisan GAB and go back to something with similar-sounding names to previous panels. They created the Ethics and Elections commissions. Each commission is made up of partisan appointees.
The Republican move to dissolve the GAB in 2015 came after the board investigated possible coordination between outside conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 campaign.
"With the Republicans, I wasn't surprised when they got angry," Vocke said. "We'd been angering them before because they were the majority party. They had the governor. We weren't doing what they wanted to do."
"I think [those Republicans are] politicians, and they're looking out for themselves," he continued. "That's not something unique to Republicans. Both parties have been doing that."
After a few months serving on the new Ethics Commission, Kinney had had enough and resigned.
"I thought Judge Kinney did the right thing," Vocke said. "I thought it was a gutsy move."
In a year-end interview, Gov. Walker indicated an interest in hearing Kinney out.
"We made the offer to meet. Hopefully, we will, sometime after the start of the year," Walker said. "I don't know exactly what his frustration is."
Among other concerns, Kinney complained that members of the commission had an "observable lack of commitment" and that the panel's rules "require too much secrecy and too little transparency."
"The public is almost completely shut out of the process," he said.
To Vocke, those frustrations sound familiar.
"This is history repeating itself," Vocke said. "This is what happened before the GAB was formulated in the first place. Nothing was getting done."
Walker is in charge of naming Kinney's replacement to the Ethics Commission. He will select a new commissioner from a list of nominees provided by Democrats.
STEVENS POINT - A former Portage County doctor could go to prison for sexually assaulting his patients. Wilton Calderon pled guilty to three felonies Friday.
Calderon was a caregiver at the Plover Family Practice until leaving it in 2015. He then moved to Connecticut.
At least seven women accused Calderon of sexually assaulted them during appointments. Some patients said Calderon placed his genitals in their hands and performed unwanted gynecological exams by penetrating them with his fingers.
SUGAR CAMP - Update Feb. 17, 2017 10:20 p.m. -- The woman who runs an Oneida County animal rescue could face animal mistreatment charges.
Oneida County Deputies booked Stephanie Schneider on Thursday. She is due in court on Feb. 27.
Last week, deputies removed 39 dogs from Schneider's "It Matters to One" in Sugar Camp and put them at the Oneida County Humane Society.
Police are recommending charges to the district attorney, which include failing to provide food and water, mistreating animals, and obstructing officers.
People who know Schneider say they can't believe this is happening.
"I'm just heartsick about this, and I'm sick at heart for her," said LynnAnn Thomas, a Sugar Camp resident who says she's friends with Stephanie Schneider.
"Those are her children. She would never, ever , ever mistreat them," Thomas said.
But that's exactly what police believe Schneider did. Last week they removed the dogs from the facility after a weeks-long investigation that was prompted by complaints and concerns from several people.
"People that had worked or volunteered there were concerned about the conditions that the dogs were in and the fact that they were not receiving food or water," said Oneida County Sheriff's Capt. Terri Hook.
Those accusations baffle Thomas.
"I been over there several times, it's always been meticulously clean, happy dogs," Thomas said.
Thomas believes whatever condition the dogs were in, they came to Schneider that way.
"She does get some really, really, really desperate cases, and I imagine that they take a long time to heal," Thomas said.
Thomas added she got her own dog from It Matters To One a few years ago.
"I got my little Hankey, he came in in really bad shape, and she wouldn't let me have him until he was nursed back to health," Thomas said.
Since the dogs were removed, It Matters to One posted certificates of veterinary inspections on its Facebook page for most of the 39 dogs. The Sheriff's Office has seen those and is including them in its investigation, which is ongoing and may not end soon.
"Just to ensure that all the dogs are healed and make sure they've received all the care they need," Hook said.
Newswatch 12 has reached out to It Matters to One and has been communicating with the rescue via email.
The state Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection is helping the sheriff's office with its investigation and will decide if the rescue can keep its license.
Newswatch 12 also reached out to the veterinarian who conducted the inspections for the rescue, but has not yet heard back.
MADISON - A suspended University of Wisconsin-Madison student accused of sexually assaulting and harassing nearly a dozen women has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges.
Twenty-year-old Alec Cook faces a total of 21 counts, including strangulation, sexual assault, stalking and false imprisonment involving 10 women dating back to March 2015. Five of the charges are misdemeanors. The rest are felonies.
ONEIDA COUNTY - Once landfills run out of space, the county must decide where the garbage will go. At a meeting on Monday, it was announced that the Vilas County landfill has about 10 years left before it will have to find a new location to dispose of trash. Oneida County had a similar decision to make years ago.
Fifteen years ago, the Oneida County landfill was capped.
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