By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers’ pick to oversee the agency charged with issuing licenses for people in the trades said during a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday that it was a “horrendous mistake” that led to her being charged with felony child abuse in 2005 after jabbing her 5-year-old son’s hand with a pen.
Dawn Crim is Evers’ pick to lead the Department of Safety and Professional Services, which not only regulates and issues licenses for a wide variety of professions and businesses but also enforces building-safety laws. It has more than 230 employees and an annual budget of about $5 million.
A criminal complaint from 14 years ago alleged that Crim had poked her son’s hand several times, causing it to bleed, after learning from a teacher’s note that he had poked a fellow student’s hand with a pencil.
The charges were never proved in court and the case against Crim was dismissed under a deferred prosecution agreement after Crim successfully fulfilled the terms of the arrangement.
Under the agreement, Crim admitted fault for what had happened to her son, her attorney Lester Pines told the Wisconsin State Journal, which first reported on the charge last week.
“Fourteen years ago I made a horrendous mistake that hurt my son.” Crim told the state Senate’s public benefits, licensing and state-federal relations committee. “It was the worst experience of my life. I have taken responsibilities for my actions and I vowed that it would never happen again and it hasn’t.”
Evers has stood by Crim, who previously worked under Evers as assistant state superintendent for the Division of Student and School Success. She is also a former assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The three Republican senators on the committee were divided about whether they would support Crim.
Sen. Devin LeMahieu said after the hearing that he would back her, but Sen. David Craig said he needed to think about it. Committee chairman Sen. Chris Kapenga said he had some concerns about how Evers handled the nomination and would not immediately schedule a vote.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said Crim’s appointment may “languish” without enough votes to support her confirmation. She can serve as secretary unless the Senate, controlled 19-14 by Republicans, votes to reject her confirmation.
Republican committee members questioned Crim about whether she had discussed the stabbing with Evers. She said it came up during the vetting process. Evers’ office provided lawmakers with documentation about the incident on Tuesday. The Associated Press requested copies of the documentation from Evers’ office on Wednesday but did not immediately receive a response.
Evers told reporters last week that he only became aware of the incident after it was discovered while Crim was being vetted for the secretary position.
Crim said she was uncomfortable with some of the details of the incident she called a “personal matter” being turned over, but she felt there were details lawmakers should know about.
“It was not a good moment so I have moved on, my family and I have moved on,” she said.
None of Evers’ Cabinet picks has been voted on yet by the Senate. In addition to Crim, Evers’ pick to head the state Department of Transportation, Craig Thompson, is faced with concerns from Republicans because of his past lobbying for a trade group that advocates for building more roads in Wisconsin.