Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Will Scott Walker Pass The Buck Again?

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker tried to bury bad news at the beginning of a holiday weekend last Friday. What was the bad news? The report that the Milwaukee County Parks Department has a $2.3 million deficit. Does that not sound familiar to anyone else? It should because the same thing happened in 2003.

Let me briefly summarize what happened at that time. The Parks budget was $2 million in deficit, then Director of Parks Susan Baldwin devised a deficit reduction plan that she says was affirmed and reaffirmed by Scott Walker. This plan included early closings of pools in the summertime. When constituents (mostly in Walker’s suburban strongholds) started complaining, Walker had to take quick action that would pass the buck to someone else. That “someone else” he passed the buck to was Susan Baldwin and four of her colleagues whose resignation/retirement he demanded.

Such drastic action was taken at that time and now an even greater deficit. Who will Walker blame now? The only common denominator between the deficit in 2003 and the current one is Walker and his policies. It does not take a genius to figure out that this County Executive job was only a stepping stone for Walker to run for Governor. It seems clear that he is only trying to bide his time as County Exec and then let some other poor soul clean up his mess.

The 2003 Parks budget incident revealed much about Walker, his political ambition and what kind of person he is when he thinks no one else is looking. Last year Susan Baldwin and others filed a lawsuit against Walker regarding their premature termination. That case has now been moved to federal court, but shortly after its filing, I obtained a copy of the actual complaint. Given the deja vu we're experiencing with the new Parks deficit, it seems to be an appropriate time to share this information.

Page 3 of Complaint

In June of 2002 Scott Walker offered to reappoint Susan Baldwin if she agreed to waive her Backdrop Benefit and Service Credit Enhancement. Baldwin did waive these items and was reappointed by Walker as Parks Director. Baldwin also took a $1,000 pay cut as a result of Walker’s urging.

On August 18, 2003 Walker reaffirmed his approvals of Ms. Baldwin’s projected $2,000,000 budget deficit reduction plan. Around this time is when pools started closing and constituents started getting upset.

On August 19, 2003 Ms. Baldwin and other’s were advised that they could either retire, resign, or be terminated effective immediately. Baldwin made a counter offer to Walker that she resign and not say anything negative to the press. The condition- as long as she was able to use sick/vacation time in order to continue her employment until October 28th. This was important because if her employment was terminated prior to that date, she would not get the full retirement benefits due her after a long career with Milwaukee County.

Page 4 of Complaint

On that same day Walker accepted, through Corporate Counsel William Domina, the offer from Baldwin. Because of this agreement, Baldwin refused requests from the press to comment on the Parks deficit and pool closings.

Page 5 of Complaint

On the very same day that the above agreement was made, “Walker made false statements of fact to the media that Ms. Baldwin had not alerted him to a projected $2 million parks budget deficit.” Because of the above stated agreement, Walker surely knew that Baldwin could not respond to his comments.

Page 6 of Complaint

Less than a week after the agreements were made, Scott Walker decided to not allow Susan Baldwin to continue her employment until October 28th. What was the reason that Scott Walker and the County broke their word? “The press was asking too many questions and Mr. Walker was taking too much heat.” So apparently Walker’s political standing was more important than his word. This decision had a direct effect on Baldwin’s retirement as it cut her payments by 25%.

For me, this complaint only verifies the person that I already believe Scott Walker to be. Blind political ambition seems to conquer all other standards. It is his blind ambition that shortchanged the future of these long time public servants. It is his self interests that forced them to remain silent while he “made false statements” about them. It is this same drive that causes Walker to post continual deficits in the Parks department. It’s high time that Wisconsin voters act in their own best interests and dispatch Scott Walker from the Governor’s race this year and from Milwaukee County in 2008.


Russ said...

There's a lot of he said she said in your article. We'll have to wait for the Judge's decision.I do suspect
however,that Susan baldwin did not have to close pools to close the budget deficit. With our short season closing polls is the last thing she should
have done. She must have
known that would cause complaints.
The REAL problem is the pension plan.
All of the counties budget problems are tracable back to
the Ament lavish pension plan.
Over the long term it
is unsustainable without
substanial tax increases. In recent years private sector
workers have been required
to contribute more for health care and retirement. It is time for
county workers to share
the pain and contribute to their benefits.

Jeff R. Sonian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff R. Sonian said...

Jeez, it sounds like he didn't cut ENOUGH then. More taxation is not the solution, pension reform and more spending cuts are.

Cory Liebmann said...

thanks for insightful comments. yes i agree, it is a bit of "he said, she said". the public hears all the time from walker. rarely do we hear the specific arguments of the other side regarding behind the scenes stuff at the county. i was hoping this would give us a glimpse.
i agree that this will ultimatlly be decided in a courtroom...but...baldwin's allegations seem to verify what i believe is walker's mo...pass the buck.
i think that the pool closings were only one part of baldwin's defecit reduction plan. i don't think that it was her only solution to the defecit.
i agree that the pension problem is still with us. but i believe walker has made a bad situation worse...largely for political gain.
I also agree that the county worker's should be asked to share the burden. i believe that walker ruined the chances of this because he entered negotiations in bad faith.