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Evers pick calls poking of son with pen 'horrendous mistake'

Posted at 6:48 PM, Mar 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-13 21:07:33-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- One of Gov. Tony Evers' Cabinet secretaries who was charged with felony child abuse in 2005 after jabbing her 5-year-old son's hand with a pen said during a state Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday it was a "horrendous mistake" that has not been repeated.

Dawn Crim is Evers pick to lead the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

A criminal complaint from 14 years ago alleged that Crim 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 proven 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, as detailed in records released Wednesday, Crim admitted fault for what had happened to her son. The records show that Crim told investigators she never intended to hurt her son and felt terrible about what happened.

"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 incident with Evers. She said it came up during the vetting process. Evers' office provided lawmakers with documentation about the incident on Tuesday, which Craig and Evers both later provided to The Associated Press.

The documents include court records from 2005, investigators' reports and numerous letters of support for Crim, including one sent to lawmakers Saturday that was signed by 30 people.

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.

The agency Crim was picked to lead enforces building safety laws, and regulates and issues licenses to a wide variety of professionals and businesses. It has more than 230 employees and an annual budget of about $55 million.

None of Evers' Cabinet picks have been voted on yet by the Senate. In addition to Crim, Evers' pick to head the state Department of Transportation Craig Thompson faces concerns from Republicans because of his past lobbying for a trade group that includes advocates for building more roads in Wisconsin.