Vets’ chair ignores Evers’ demand to quit over porn charges

March 24, 2022 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The leader of the state veterans policy board is refusing to step down as he fights child pornography charges, creating another appointment headache for Gov. Tony Evers.

Prosecutors in Milwaukee charged Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Board Chairman Curtis Schmitt Jr. on Jan. 23 with three felony counts of possession of child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty.

According to a criminal complaint, investigators discovered two photos and a video of child pornography had been uploaded to a Dropbox account associated with Schmitt’s email in December. Schmitt told police that he was addicted to adult pornography and sometimes received and downloaded child pornography.

A judge last month bound him over for trial. He’s due back in court Tuesday for a scheduling conference.


The veterans board works with the WDVA secretary to shape benefit programs for Wisconsin veterans by adopting administrative rules. It also approves resolutions and recommendations from state veterans organizations. The nine members serve four-year terms with no pay.

Evers appointed Schmitt to board in 2019. The state Senate confirmed Schmitt unanimously in October of that year.

The governor’s office said Thursday that administration officials sent Schmitt a letter the day after he was charged asking him to immediately resign “in the best interest” of the board. Schmitt and his representatives haven’t responded to the letter as well as subsequent attempts to contact them, according to the administration. WDVA’s website still listed him as board chairman as of Thursday.

Since the Senate confirmed Schmitt, the governor can’t simply rescind the appointment. According to state law, Evers could remove him for cause, defined as “inefficiency, neglect of duty, official misconduct or malfeasance in office.” But to start that process a taxpayer would have to file a complaint against Schmitt and the governor would have to hold a hearing.

Schmitt’s attorney, Christopher Hartley, didn’t respond to an email asking why Schmitt has decided to remain on the board. A home listing for Schmitt was disconnected Thursday.

Sen. Eric Wimberger, chairman of the Senate veterans committee, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the situation. Wimberger was elected in 2020, more than a year after Schmitt was confirmed.

Schmitt’s refusal to quit comes as Evers has been working to remove conservative Fred Prehn off the state Department of Natural Resources board because Prehn’s term has expired.


Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed Prehn in 2015. His term ended in May 2020. Evers appointed Sandra Naas to replace him but Prehn has refused to step down, arguing he doesn’t have to go until the Senate confirms Naas. The Republican-controlled body has made no moves toward a vote on her. As a result, conservatives maintain a majority on a key board that decides environmental and hunting regulations, much to the ire of Democrats and conservation organizations.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has sued to force Prehn out. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case earlier this month and could issue a ruling any time.


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The board advises the WDVA on administrative rules that regulate veteran policies and benefit programs. Members must be veterans and serve four-year terms for no pay. According to the WDVA website, Schmitt served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.