Monday, January 30, 2012

Walker Claims Transparency, But His Office Kept Secrets

Then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker told The Lakeland Times newspaper in a lengthy interview during the gubernatorial campaign published on September 8th, 2010, that his work and behavior as Milwaukee County Executive established and reinforced his belief in open government:

When he says he believes in government transparency, it's not just a campaign slogan, Walker said.

"I don't just say that, I've lived it," he said.
The story remains on his campaign website.

But by the time that interview was published, a then-undisclosed email system in the County Courthouse that was regularly used by Walker's inner circle and other Republican operatives had been there for eleven months, records now show.

The system operated outside of the regular communications networks in the Courthouse, and outside of the reach of legal, Open Records search and requests.

And was set up by long-time Walker associate and County Executive staffer Tim Russell, according to the criminal complaint filed against Kelly Rindfleisch.

She had been hired in early 2010 for a taxpayer-paid position in Walker's public service office, but in reality was carrying out fund-raising and political work for then-State Rep. Brett Davis' unsuccessful campaign for Lt. Gov., the complaint says. Davis was a Walker favorite.

Rindfleisch was later promoted to Walker's Deputy Chief of staff - - an even higher-paid public position previously held by Russell - -  from which she allegedly and repetitively used the secret communications system, on public time for illegal political purposes, that was located in her office less than 25 feet from Walker's office, the complaint states.

It all makes laughable Walker's earlier call for ethics reforms to restore trust in government.

Rindfleisch faces four felony counts of misconduct in public office filed by county prosecutors in the continuing John Doe probe into the operation of Walker's office and campaigns, records show.

On page 15 of the complaint (use link above), it is alleged that in addition to work for the Davis campaign, there were more than 1,000 emails sent or received among Rindfleisch and three top Friends of Scott Walker gubernatorial campaign officials - - the campaign manager, deputy and communications director - - between Feb. 2 and July 9, 2010 - -  before then-County Executive Walker told the Lakeland Times he had "lived" transparency in County government.

Russell was charged separately with stealing money from a politically-advantageous veterans' fund that Walker assigned him to run out of the County Executive's Office, despite advice from the County's Ethics Board that the fund's operation be moved away from County Government.

Transparent County operations? More like a Nixonian throwback.

Davis, who did not win a primary for Lt. Gov., was appointed state Medicaid director by now Gov. Walker.

Davis' then-campaign manager, Cullen Werwie, remains as Gov. Walker's press secretary despite even though he shows up in some of the email traffic cited in the Rindfleisch complaint, and has been given immunity in the John Doe probe.


Anonymous said...

Add to this that Rindfleisch knew what she was doing was wrong, having been part of the legislative caucus investigations a decade ago. (Not to mention Walker's statement last week that everyone in the office knew there was to be no campaigning on county time.)

The caucus investigations resulted in former Republican Assembly speaker Scott Jensen, Democrats Chuck Chvala and Brian Burke, and several others being charged for using state workers to run political campaigns. Rindfleisch, who worked for the Republican assembly and senate caucuses and for then-Senate minority leader Mary Panzer, R-West Bend, told investigators that she had planned and organized campaign fundraisers on state time. She spoke after receiving immunity and wasn't charged.

Jensen's conviction on the charges led to his resignation from office in 2006. Jensen finally settled his criminal misconduct case in December 2010, agreeing to plead guilty to a misdemeanor ethics charge and pay more than $70,000 in fines and legal fees in exchange for three felony counts being dropped. Others charged in the investigation settled years earlier.

Whether or not he knew about Rindfleisch's campaign activities in the Milwaukee County office, the fact is that Walker hired Rindfleisch and made her his Deputy Chief of Staff despite her history of illegal campaigning while working for the state. At the very least, he didn't prevent her from doing it again.

If you hired a person with that history and expected them not to do it again, wouldn't you want to verify that they didn't?

Anonymous said...

He IS transparent - he's so lacking substance and phony, you can see right through him.