As we reported last week, Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan suggested that the Finance and Audit Committee authorize a formal audit of two contracts that were awarded in 2004 to Phoenix Care Systems/Bell Therapy. Two executives with this company have also been frequent contributors to Milwaukee County Executive and candidate for governor Scott Walker. We first raised questions about these two contracts in our post, "Contract Questions for Scott Walker." A few weeks after we posted that report the AP picked up part of the story, while the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ignored it.
As frequent readers will recall, in the aforementioned post we included copies of scoring sheets. This was called "competitive bidding" in a letter that we received from the Behavioral Health Division. Although Bell Therapy scored much lower than several other agencies, they did get the large contract. Some have tried to dismiss our questions because some of the higher scoring companies were also awarded contracts that year (2004). That is true, BUT they were awarded much smaller contracts. Why would the lower scoring company get the higher paying contract?
The other contract in question was a no-bid contract given to Bell Therapy/Phoenix Care Systems. This is the contract that the AP story addressed. The AP also confirmed in that story that Scott Walker personally signed off on that contract. There was an attempt to justify the contract because it was an emergency situation, but the AP demonstrated that one of the higher scoring competitors could have met that need also. So why no-bid? Why not choose the higher scoring company?
In last week's Finance and Audit Committee meeting, John Weishan's proposal to audit these contracts was approved by a vote of 4-3. It has been said that those who voted "no" in this meeting were concerned that having an audit would suggest that someone did something wrong. Let me address this issue. I don't believe that I have ever accused anyone of breaking any laws. I have only made public what I feel are contracts that should be questioned and looked at closer.
I have also said that since many are looking into contract questions for Gov. Doyle, that they should also look into these questions.
Today the full County Board voted on this recommendation from the Finance and Audit Committee. They overwhelmingly voted for the audit as only a handful of supervisors voted against it. I understand that one of the supervisors that did not want the audit stated that it should not be given because (at least in part) it first surfaced on "a blog." This makes me wonder that if I posted that the sky was blue that someone would discount that assessment simply because it was found on a blog.
In any case, Scott Walker said that he "welcomed" the audit and now he will get it. The audit will be led by County Auditor Jerry Herr who has been working at the county for a long time. He does not work for and is not accountable to Scott Walker, so there does not appear to be any conflicts of interest. From what I hear, he is a trusted man and I am happy that he is going to look into this matter. Perhaps this will turn out to be one big coincidence or perhaps will turn out to be something more. I will wait for the results with everyone else.
Gee, I wonder if the Journal Sentinel will report on this now....I'll check the paper first thing tomorrow morning.