Walker administration encouraged conducting official state business through private channels

There was a time when Wisconsin state government was held up as a model of clean, transparent government, but sadly that time has passed. Under Gov. Scott Walker, who saw three of his closest aides as County Executive convicted of crimes related to their misconduct in office (on Walker’s behalf), Wisconsin state government has become more secretive and less transparent than at any time in its history.

Two former members of Gov. Scott Walker’s cabinet say the administration has had a policy of communicating official business through private channels.

The allegations come as the Walker administration faces criticism for cutting public access to internal text messages and other so-called transitory state records.

Peter Bildsten, former secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions, and Paul Jadin, former head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said they were instructed in Walker’s first term by then-Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch not to use official email or state telephones to relay important information or documents.

Bildsten said Huebsch, Walker’s top aide, gave this warning at a cabinet meeting: “Don’t send me an email of anything important on my state computer, and don’t call me on anything of importance on my state phone. If you have anything of consequence or importance, call me on your personal phones or walk it over.”

“And that,” Bildsten said, “is how most communications were handled going forward.”

Bildsten said Walker was at most cabinet meetings early in his first term, but he does not remember if the governor attended that specific session, which he believes occurred in the first half of 2011.

Jadin, the first chief executive of WEDC, had a similar recollection of Huebsch’s stance. Jadin said he remembers Huebsch “bragged” about not using email and “making a big deal about what emails were discoverable.”

Anyone who values clean, transparent government (which should be just about everyone in Wisconsin) should be disappointed – no, outraged – at what our state government has become under Scott Walker and his Republican cronies.


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