Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Walker John Doe Probe In A Higher Gear

And so is the local paper's reporting.

The extensive piece in the Wednesday Journal Sentinel about the John Doe probe and Scott Walker's former Milwaukee County staff and senior campaign officials is a significant piece of journalism that advances a significant political story by leaps and bounds.

The reporting does a helluva job explaining that the probe is looking at possible irregularities - - and no one has been charged in this avenue of investigation - - surrounding real estate bids, awards, lobbying and politicking that involved millions of dollars in County-paid office real estate contracts.

The corruption investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's time as Milwaukee County executive is focusing on the bid competition to house the county's Department on Aging in private office space, the Journal Sentinel has learned.

Investigators are looking for signs of bid-rigging or other misconduct as representatives of the privately owned Reuss Federal Plaza vied unsuccessfully in 2010 to keep the department offices, according to sources familiar with the case. The offices had moved in 2005 to the blue tower, 310 W. Wisconsin Ave., in a $3 million deal.

In December, the real estate broker for Boerke Co. who spearheaded the Reuss effort in 2005 and 2010 was arrested and jailed overnight on allegations of failing to cooperate with the ongoing John Doe investigation.

The broker, Andrew P. Jensen Jr., faces an order to talk to prosecutors Wednesday.

John Hiller, one of Walker's highest-ranking campaign aides, said he worked on behalf of the building's owners on the 2005 deal. An official told the newspaper that he also had a role in the 2010 effort.

In 2005, Schlitz Park - which had housed the offices for 20 years - won an initial bid for the offices. But records show a rushed, last-minute rebid resulted in the Reuss group getting the $3 million deal...

In late summer 2010, the county ultimately rejected all private office space options as too expensive and the department's offices moved into vacant space in a county-owned building, a cost-saving move some supervisors had recommended five years earlier.

Around that time, the district attorney's office, which launched the Doe investigation in May 2010, received a tip about possible insider dealing in the lease-space competition. An email obtained by the Journal Sentinel showed the Walker administration tipped off some brokers about strategy months before any bids were formally sought.

None of the players in the deals has been accused of wrongdoing, and Walker has defended the county's actions...
The fact no lease contract was awarded in 2010 could make any potential prosecution more difficult, but misconduct charges do get filed under such circumstances, veteran Chicago criminal defense attorney Robert Loeb said. They hinge on the illegality of the behind-the-scenes acts, not necessarily on whether the contract was awarded.
This line of John Doe inquiry has been reported by the paper's Dan Bice, including in a Sunday column that said:
The next phase, insiders say, is focusing on the role some of Walker's closest associates and county employees had in a real estate deal involving a county agency. The point man on the deal, real estate broker Andrew Jensen, was arrested last month for allegedly failing to cooperate with the investigation. Jensen, who was not charged, is set to meet with prosecutors this week.
The Wednesday blockbuster takes readers to political territory in and around County government several notches above that inhabited by middling Walker staffers and associates recently charged by the Milwaukee County District Attorney with diverting funds from a Walker-founded veterans' charity to pay for personal cruises and airplane tickets - - as serious as that conduct would be, if proven.

But as a former Milwaukee Journal and Journal Sentinel reporter and assistant metropolitan editor, here's what jumped out at me about the Wednesday story: five Journal Sentinel staffers got bylines or contributor credit.


Even in the long-gone era of big newsroom staffs, five reporters does a serious team make.

Add in the copy, content, senior editing and design involvement, and it's even more clear that the paper, already owning the story, is really all-in as that story gets hotter.

If you are Scott Walker, or are on his team, or were with him in County government, trust me: this is not the way you hoped his State of the State speech Wednesday - - or the next few weeks or months - - would unfold


Anonymous said...


Reagan's Disciple said...

Wow, does Chisholm's office have some serious integrity problems or what?

Anonymous said...

When you put your online paper behind a paywall you need to make an extra effort to attract eyeballs. What better way than to cover the biggest political corruption scandal in modern Wisconsin politics?

Mount up the posse and ride hard.

Robert O Martin said...

The milwaukee Urinals pay per view for its rag is the last straw for me. I'm now reading the Wis. State Journal. Furthurmore I will not renew my Sun. sbuscription.