Who Is Guarding The Hen House In Madison

My goodness, the news coming out of Madison this week makes it seem that nobody but nobody in Governor Walker’s administration has any idea on how to responsibly run the joint! I mean really!

First we have reports that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has overpaid at least one contractor for work that wasn’t performed! It seems so egregious that US Representative Gwen Moore is suggesting that we need a federal investigation into the state’s use of federal highway funds.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker acknowledged the department’s misspending on the contract calling it “completely wrong, completely unacceptable.”

He said changes were made in the aftermath of the 2015 case to help prevent additional waste.

“There should never be a situation like that,” he said earlier this week.

The Journal Sentinel’s investigation detailed how WisDOT was using special provisions on megaprojects in the state’s southeast region that made it difficult to track spending on certain items. In at least one case, the arrangement resulted in a contractor double billing for about 1,500 truckloads of gravel, and the state knowingly paying for it.

The special provisions were used another 30 times for work on the Zoo Interchange, making it impossible for taxpayers to know if another $1.6 million was spent on work never done or materials never received.

Department officials say they have changed policies and beefed up oversight to ensure the practice has not continued.

But they shouldn’t have had to change policies…we’ve been building highways in this state since we were a state. We’ve had to follow federal laws on how to account for federal highway funds for nearly as long. This isn’t rocket science, it’s basic accounting practice. So something is rotten in Denmark…and it shouldn’t have taken the Journal Sentinel’s report to get the state in line. (voters: a valid reason to support political candidates who support freedom of the press and transparency in government).

And then we have same problem, different pew! Next we find that the Wisconsin Medicaid Program paid for care for people who were already dead.

A federal audit of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program found that nearly $600,000 was paid to managed care organizations on behalf of patients who already had died.

The finding comes from an audit by the U.S. Office of Inspector General covering the years 2010 through 2015. During that period, $589,478 in erroneous state Medicaid payments were made on behalf of dead people to managed care groups.

The Wisconsin money involved 1,654 so-called capitation payments, which are monthly fixed payments on behalf of enrolled individuals who are low-income or who have disabilities. Medicaid is jointly administered by states and the federal government.

So this one came up in a federal audit of the period from 2010 to 2015. Solidly in the Walker era. Again this is a simple accounting practice that should have been in place and continued. I mean, Medicaid has been around a significant time period. There isn’t anything new going on here.

And then we find that Wisconsin prison officials have investigated prison staff for 132 incidents of prison staff sexually abusing or harassing inmates?

Wisconsin prison officials investigated more than 100 complaints of correctional officers and staff sexually abusing or harassing inmates in one year, state records show.

Among the allegations reviewed, Department of Corrections officials found enough evidence to prove just 11 percent of the claims, or 15 cases involving correctional staff in positions of power creating intimate interactions or relationships with inmates they were charged with supervising, according to documents released under the state open records law.

The prison staff — including one guard trained in preventing such behavior — are accused of having sexual intercourse and forging romantic relationships with inmates, spanking them and making sexually harassing comments, among other allegations.

This on top of the multitude of issues surrounding the juvenile detention facility at Lincoln Hills makes it seem like the Department of Corrections staff is out of control.

So Governor Walker thinks he deserves a third term? These three failures at management alone should indicate he is incapable of running the great state of Wisconsin! No way that he deserves another four years at the helm.

More GOP Budget Insanity In Wisconsin: Dept of Corrections Edition

There have been competing articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the issues surrounding the various Wisconsin Department Of Correction facilities. Much of it relates to budget issues and employment issues. Apparently the DOC can’t hire enough guards and security personnel to keep the facilities safe and running correctly.

And on Tuesday, MJS ran an article front page just below the masthead: A Wisconsin worker nearly tripled his pay last year by working 95 hours a week and others cashed in, as well. Apparently one employee worked enough overtime to out earn his bosses and the governor and then retired! I don’t begrudge the officer making his move…the system let him and he gamed the system.

But 95 hours a week? Can anyone effectively do their job working 95 hours a week, no matter what it is? Doesn’t this put the guard at risk? Doesn’t this put the other guards at risk? Doesn’t this put the other staff at risk? Doesn’t this put those incarcerated at risk?

So we are short handed and can’t staff the facilities that we have. And these facilities are full to capacity. So what does Attorney General Brad Schimel think we should do? Well this is pulled from an article where the AG is criticizing the prison plans of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates…but it certainly exhibits the total disconnect in Madison around law enforcement and incarceration:

Schimel said the state’s current approach on addressing recidivism is appropriate, and he supports building a new prison to reduce crowding in existing facilities to ensure safety for correctional officers and that rehabilitation programs are effective.

So how do we staff new facilities if we can’t staff current facilities?

And just this morning, the good old MJS featured this story on the front page: Pay raises not on table despite prison staffing shortage!

Facing ballooning overtime costs amid a stubborn staffing shortage in Wisconsin prisons, lawmakers in control of state government are not yet putting forward a pay bump to entice new correctional officers.

Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders acknowledge that having too few workers in state prisons is a long-standing challenge, but none are voicing support for putting more money into salaries or benefits following a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report showing staffing shortages opened the door for more than 500 state workers —most of them at the Department of Corrections — to make more than $20,000 in overtime last year.

But Republican leaders say prison officials have offered current and prospective employees significant financial incentives to cure the staffing problems, and that the strong economy exacerbates the challenge in hiring new workers.

“With a record low 2.8% unemployment rate and more people working in Wisconsin than ever before, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines,” Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg said. “The worker shortage is a nationwide challenge, and we will continue our historic investments in worker training and education moving forward to help get more people into the workforce.”

Hey! The word out of Washington is lower unemployment yields higher wages. It’s all part of the master plan. If you want quality employees in quantity…you need to pay up!

By the way, according to the linked article, officers have gotten a number of pay increases over the past few years…and in January the starting wage will be $16.55 per hour. Think about that. The national push is $15.00 minimum wage for…you know…minimum wage jobs…do you want fries with that? And we are asking men and women to take jobs that put their personal safety at risk for $16.55? Really?

New hires are getting $2,000 signing bonuses though.

From our quotable GOP leader in Madison, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said state officials could try increasing wages and benefits, but the nature of the job of a correctional officer will always be a hurdle if there are less-stressful alternatives.

“You can always look at wages and benefits and try to pump those up but I think in the environment that we’re operating in, it’s gonna be tough,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know that that’s the solution right now.”

Shrug!

Oh and then there is the issue of finding the money in the state budget. Well obviously if you hire more people some of the money will come from the overtime no longer being paid…but guess what…we had a budget surplus working that could have been reassigned…but no…the governor had to do his election year gimmick give back and sales tax holiday instead.

Shrug!

Walker Administration gives double-digit raises to high-level Corrections staff

This is completely unsurprising.

The state Department of Corrections gave at least eight high-level workers up to 15% in pay increases over the past year, including four who collected three raises or bonuses in six months.

The significant raises for the prison psychologists were among those uncovered in a new review of salary increases in the state prisons agency by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In some cases, those raises were simply given for switching from one work location to another, a tactic aimed at stemming a loss in experienced psychologists, a spokeswoman said.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has repeatedly made such transfers to evade state rules limiting workers’ pay increases, including eight wardens who received up to 13% raises for switching from one prison to another. The raises for a number of top officials within the prisons department contrast with those given to rank-and-file guards, whose take-home pay is still down sharply since 2010.

Marty Beil, a union leader who has worked with corrections employees for decades, said the raises technically satisfied state rules but wouldn’t sit well with the front-line officers guarding inmates.

“In the past, we never saw these kinds of games played,” Beil said. “Corrections officers see their warden getting a 13% raise and they wonder, ‘Why can’t I have that?'”

The practice of rewarding management while taking more and more money out of the pockets of rank and file employees is nothing new for the Department of Corrections under Walker appointee Ed Wall, and so this latest news should not surprise anyone.

Walker administration cuts $900k from sex offender programs, appoints sex offense defense attorney to Circuit Court

Last week Friday, Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration outlined a list of cuts it would make to balance the state budget.

Among the cuts was $9.4 million in cuts to the Department of Corrections, with some of those cuts targeting the state prison system, not to mention $900,000 in cuts for programs dealing with sex offenders.

Also on Friday, Gov. Walker’s administration announced the appointment of defense attorney Jennifer Dorow to serve as a judge in Waukesha County Circuit Court. Prior to her appointment to the bench Dorow was a partner at the law firm of Huppertz & Dorow, S.C., which lists among its specialties the defense of those accused of child sex crimes, including child pornography, child solicitation,child enticement, sexual assault of a minor, and sexual exploitation of a minor.

Obviously everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense against whatever they’ve been accused of, but the appointment an attorney who specializing in the criminal defense of individuals accused of child sex offenses to the circuit court bench at the same that cuts to sex offender treatment programs are being announced certainly seems curious. No doubt if Jennifer Dorow had been appointed to the bench by a Democratic governor at the same time that governor announced cuts to sex offender treatment programs, conservatives would be outraged….and yet, I have not found a single conservative who’s outraged in this case only one conservative that I came across has expressed concern about Dorow’s appointment. Admittedly, I don’t read every conservative blog in the Cheddarsphere, but I haven’t noticed much of an outcry over this appointment.

Uppity Wisconsin has more on this story.

National Guard tours state prisons, gets assignments

As reported by Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier today, the Wisconsin National Guard has toured more than one correctional institution in the state, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the National Guard.

On Monday it was reported National Guard members had toured Redgranite Correctional Institution last week, and I’ve confirmed reports that National Guard members have also toured Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. It’s not clear whether visits to other state correctional facilities are planned, and while the visits have been categorized as “routine annual contingency planning” on the part of the Guard, numerous sources have indicated they have never heard of such visits being conducted.

However, what hasn’t been reported is that despite assertions that the National Guard’s visits to state correctional institutions are “routine” annual contingency visits, I’ve also confirmed at least some National Guard members have actually received assignments to man specific state correctional institutions. Union leaders have made it clear they have no plans to call on corrections officers to strike, but it’s pretty clear Gov. Scott Walker is preparing the National Guard for labor unrest.

It’s also worth noting state corrections officers marched in uniform in Madison today, leaving me to wonder if these National Guard visits were timed to send a clear message to the state’s corrections officers.