NEWS BLOG (WSAU) For my next act, I will defend the drunk-driving state lawmaker.
A state expulsion committee doesn’t have the votes to remove Jeff Wood (I-Chippewa Falls) from office. He will likely get to serve out his term, and then face trial on three O-W-I charges. While I think Wood is a lousy excuse for a state leader, I also believe he should not be removed from office by his fellow lawmakers.
Why shouldn’t Wood be removed? Because the process isn't right, and the process that we used today could be misused tomorrow. The overriding reason is that he was picked by the voters. And we should hesitate when elected officials try to undo decisions that have been made at the ballot box.
I’ve proposed the ‘Conley Rule of Public Service’ for candidates who run afoul of the law: “If the voters wouldn’t support a candidate today based on what they know now, the elected official should resign.” Wood's resignation would be welcome. But he won't.
But I’m not sure my law applies to Jeff Wood. He’d faced a marijuana charge before his last election, and the voters of Chippewa Falls picked him as their representative in Madison anyway.
Jeff Wood is a public disgrace. If you watch the police dashboard cameras, he was a danger on the roads. He admits to a substance abuse problem, and has sought treatment. He should face the criminal penalties for his crimes. But to remove someone from office who was the people’s choice sets a dangerous precedent. There is a proper procedure for circumstances like this: a recall. If Wood is suddenly unacceptable to the people in his district, they, not the legislature, should remove him from office. And if there is no one in Chippewa Falls willing to start a recall petition, then they have the state representative they deserve.
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