Thursday, February 19, 2015

DNR official lays down law on loyalty to Walker/"our" budget

It's not quite at the level of the Chris Christie-esque order to "sit down and shut up," but the closing paragraphs in a recent DNR division chief's email to staffers highlights the sensitivity among Walker's people to mixed or negative messages floating out of the agency about a budget that cuts deeply into its workforce, programs, and public mission.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources water division administrator Russell "Russ" Rasmussen sent his staff a "Hello Water Colleagues" memo on February 8th about "the Governor’s budget proposal [that] is now our DNR budget proposal" that ended with a warning:
An additional note - you may have your own personal feelings about provisions in the budget; however, the Governor’s budget proposal is now our DNR budget proposal.  You are entitled to your own opinions and you may want to express them.  That is your right.  It is important, however, to keep your work and any political activities strictly separated. Any media contacts about the budget should be referred to Bill Cosh who is the department’s spokesperson on the budget.  
Work rules prohibit use of any state equipment – phone, copy machines, e-mail or computers – for political activities, of which lobbying is part.  In addition, you cannot engage in lobbying activities on work time or in the work place, and you cannot use your work title and affiliation with DNR when talking to legislators about your personal feelings about a legislative decision.  Here is a link to the DNR Manual Code on political activity... 
This is the 12th DNR budget cycle of which I have been a part – either as a part author or an implementer.  Each one has had its challenges and opportunities, and in each one we have continued to improve our work toward protecting, enhancing and providing sustainable use of our natural resources.  I would point out that the Governor’s proposal continues to invest heavily in the important work that we do each day.  I encourage you not to simply focus on one aspect of the budget proposal or another, but to recognize the whole, and to remember why we are engaged in this endeavor with one another. Your work is important and vital to the well-being of the citizens of Wisconsin, and I look forward to continuing this work with you in the months and years ahead. 
Thank you for all that you do.
Russ
How many of you professional public servants out there get memos that start out with 'hello colleagues," and end with warnings about loose talk running afoul of work rules and state lobby laws? 



9 comments:

Anonymous said...

If this was true, why aren't the media watchdogs on this?

My local paper endorses Scott Walker and has for years. They never print this type of stuff.

Someone is lying. If you want to write fiction, can't you find a publisher?

Surely you are not telling me that our media watchdogs are too stoooopid to write about this.

mrs.e said...

What a great letter to get from your boss - not passive/aggressive at all.

old baldy said...

Russ has always been a shill for the power, whomever that may be. Look up sycophant in the dictionary and there he is. And I don't thinkl he has been at DNR long enough to have been through 12 budgets. Maybe counting his time at DOT.

Anonymous said...

When he states that the budget invests heavily and that they continue to improve, isn't he lobbying in this email???

Anonymous said...

He is obviously doing political lobbying in an email warning against it.

Milwaukeean said...

This is not an unusual message for state employees. UW employees get this warning at least annually -- and UWM faculty got an even more restrictive warning just weeks ago. It acknowledged that faculty do not have 9-to-5 work schedules, that they teach evenings and research on weekends, and as a result, they had better just be wary and beware. Here is some of it: https://vimeo.com/119091882

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone out there that doesn't think Walker and his office don't control each agency including the decisions, policies and the messages that go forth. This is why he quickly rushed through Act 20 so he could replace long term agency staff and department heads with political appointees who would do whatever Walker said. Even the press releases for agencies come from Walker's office and no dissent is allowed. Morale is at an all time low among Wisconsin public employees especially when State Patrol gets a 17% raise and you get 1% and then have even that taken away.

Anonymous said...

That is a chilling video. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I provided the email to James and can tell you that it is real. I can't tell you my name of course so I don't know where that leaves you. You would have to do an open records request to get a copy of this email and any emails directing administrators what to say.