MADISON — Two University of Wisconsin System regents whom Democratic Gov. Tony Evers fired last month following a court ruling returned to work Thursday, openly defying the governor and brushing aside arguments that he had legally stripped them of their jobs.
Regents Scott Beightol and Torrey Tiedeman were among 82 of former Gov. Scott Walker's appointees that Republican state senators confirmed during a contentious December lame-duck session before Evers took office.
The session has spurred multiple lawsuits. Last month, a Dane County judge found that Republicans had convened the session illegally and invalidated all of the actions taken during it. Empowered by the ruling, Evers rescinded all of the Walker appointments.
The landscape changed quickly, though, after a state appeals court stayed the ruling pending Republican legislators' full appeal. Evers re-appointed 67 of the Walker appointees, saying they hold low-profile positions. But he didn't give 15 others their jobs back, including Beightol and Tiedeman.
Republican legislators argue that the stay means all 82 appointees are allowed to return to their jobs. Evers has resisted; last week former Public Service Commission member Ellen Nowak tried to return to work only to be barred from entering the commission's headquarters by a security guard.
Evers' administration has no jurisdiction over the regents. Regent President John Robert Behling, himself a Walker appointee, has taken the position that the stay means Beightol and Tiedeman are reinstated. He invited them both to attend regent meetings on Thursday and Friday in their usual capacities.
Beightol took his usual spot at a meeting of the regent capital planning committee Thursday morning. No one on the committee mentioned the questions surrounding his or Tiedeman's job status. He declined to comment when a reporter approached him after the meeting.
Later Thursday morning, both Beightol and Tiedeman took their seats at the regent finance committee meeting. System officials led Tiedeman into the meeting through a back door so he would not have to walk through the audience, preventing reporters from approaching him before he took his seat. No one on the committee mentioned the appointment fight and neither of them addressed it. They both joined in a unanimous vote to increase the UW System president's salary range.
Tiedeman declined to comment after the committee had adjourned.
Behling, the regent president, told reporters before the full Board of Regents met Thursday afternoon that he stands by earlier statements in which he said he said he believed the stay reinstated Beightol and Tiedeman. He declined to comment further and didn't mention Beightol or Tiedeman in his introductory remarks as the regents convened.
Evers spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Beightol and Tiedeman's participation in the meetings.