Whither Milwaukee County: The Never-ending Saga of the Pension Scandal: Time to Clean House

It’s been 15 or so years since the original Milwaukee County pensions scandal drove County Executive Tom Ament from office and introduced the ambitious Scott Walker as his replacement…the man who was going to clean it all up. Well Mr. Walker has gone on to polluting bigger ponds and Milwaukee County is still suffering with pension issues.

I am not going to go into the whole story but have placed a number of links below from JSOnline that will fill in the gaps and some of the more recent egregious screw ups. And then there is this article from Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee: Who’s To Blame for Pension Mess?

Some of the salient points from Mr. Murphy:

A recent report found that hundreds of county retirees have been getting paid the wrong amount, either an underpayment or overpayment. The report came just a few months after the county discovered it had underpaid nearly 1,300 county retirees, and would have to pay out $11 million to make up for the underpayments — in addition to $6 million more that hadn’t been budgeted to fully cover those retirees over their projected life expectancy. And all this comes on top of another error that blew up in 2014 but had actually been discovered in 2007 and never solved: overpayments to retirees in the neighborhood of $26 million.

“Every single dollar of the wheel tax (recently passed to generate more tax revenue) is being spent on problems with the pension,” Wasserman laments.

At one memorable county board meeting, pension office director Marian Ninneman promised there would be no more errors and boasted she had in place a “fail-safe system.”

County Board chairman Theo Lipscomb blames all the problems on Abele and none on the board. “I’m not blaming Abele for the mistakes that predate his first election, but he’s been county executive for nearly six years. As the most powerful County Executive in Wisconsin, Abele should take responsibility for the growing list of pension errors.”

In fact, the $11 million in underpayments went back as long as 15 years ago when Tom Ament was county exec, and were itemized in a report released in 2007, when Scott Walker was the executive, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. But they’ve never been fixed.

As for the $26 million in overpayments, board members passed a unanimous resolution in 2007 to stop the overpayments and then never checked (nor did the Walker administration) to make sure this actually happened. Then after Abele discovered the problem in 2014 and tried to stop all future overpayments, Lipscomb and the board adamantly refused to allow this, with then-board chair Marina Dimitrijevic calling Abele’s action “immoral.”

Abele blames the recurring problems on complexity. “It’s a really, really complicated system.”

Well this whole thing cost Marian Ninneman here job this past month. But I think it’s time that we cleaned house at the County Courthouse! Abele? gone! Dimitrijevic? gone! Lipscomb? gone! Any and every county supervisor? gone!

The entire pension board? gone!

Walker? He’s out of reach of county voters…but is he out of reach of the law? Is there some way to reach him for this mess?

15 years of negligence…15 years of wasting county resources…15 years of county employees not knowing which way their pensions go…or when…or why.

15 years wasting my tax dollars.

Clean house!

Latest Milwaukee County pension errors to cost $2 million to correct

Hidden report shows hundreds of Milwaukee County pension payment errors

Milwaukee County pension chief loses job after overpayment error

Milwaukee County demands pension repayments because of ‘buyback’ errors

Milwaukee County pension office reverses course 13 months later, denies man’s retirement


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2 thoughts on “Whither Milwaukee County: The Never-ending Saga of the Pension Scandal: Time to Clean House

  1. I’m sorry, Ed, but you should be more careful of your sources. Murphy as an ax to grind against the board and simply adores Abele to the point it affects his objectivity.

    The Board did not stop Abele from stopping future overpayments. They stopped him from trying to go after retirees for the previous overpayments made, including taking away people’s homes and negating their retirements although none of this debacle was their fault. They took it on good faith that Abele’s HR department was telling them accurate numbers.

    1. Thanks Capper for your insights on this. I don’t have issue with the board actions on the overpayments. But this is beyond just that single issue now. It is 15 years of inaction across the county electeds…and public employees (and taxpayers) continue to suffer as a result. What is your view on Wasserman’s suggestion to move responsibility to the state?

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