PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

Mr. Walker, About That Money You Owe Us…

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on December 23, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

As most people are already aware, Scott Walker had spent the last several years in campaign mode as he strove to become governor of Wisconsin.  Every move he made was calculated in regards to what would be the most beneficial to said campaign.  If the decision happened to also be in the public’s best interest, so be it, but it was not a driving consideration for Walker.

Now his political stunts are proving to be potentially very costly to Milwaukee County tax payers.

In 2009, Scott Walker declared a fiscal emergency, even though subsequent hearings on the matter showed that this was not true and no emergency existed.  In order to address Walker’s made up emergency, he ordered county workers to start a reduced work week schedule, having workers only putting in 35 hours per week.  Predictably, the unions grieved this and took it to arbitration.

On the very first day that these reduced hours were enforced, the arbitrator ruled that Walkeroverstepped his authority and was ordered to not only stop the reduced work weeks, but to make restoration for any lost time.  That meant that every county worker received a free hour’s worth of pay.

The arbitrator ruled that Walker exceeded his authority in the unilateral imposition of the extended reduction of work hours without a resolution from the County Board authorizing it.

The ruling also found that the County was not even suffering from what could be called a fiscal emergency.  In fact, Walker eventually claimed that the 2009 budget had a $9 million surplus, much more than what could be claimed by his use of furloughs.

Walker found a friendly judge, Dennis Flynn, to rule on a challenge of the arbitrator’s finding.  Judge Flynn did indeed overrule the arbitrator and voided the award.  The union appealed this decision.

Today, The Honorable Appeals Court Judge Ralph Adam Fine ruled that the circuit court judge erred in making any sort of ruling on the arbitrator’s analysis, showing a concrete case that this was a violation of the union contract, which called for arbitration rulings in such matters, and that the results of the arbitration are final unless there is evidence that the decision was found fraudulently, which was not the case in this matter.

This means that the original arbitration is indeed to be held up.  This could the cost the County millions of dollars in back pay for excessive furloughs given to county workers.

Because the County cannot afford such a large payout, it is possible that this will instead weaken the County’s position in contract negotiations, with the unions holding it as a bargaining chip. This, of course, could end up costing the tax payers dearly.

Using the Mercer trial as a precedent, where Mercer had to pay the county for giving bad advice regarding the pension scandal, Scott Walker’s campaign should have to pay the county back for the damages it occurred directly due to Walker’s campaign stunt.  As further evidence that this was nothing more than a political stunt, Walker’s campaign regularly touted his use of these furlough days to gain the supposed surplus for that year.

To further add insult to injury, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was seeking a statement from Walker regarding this fiasco, found out that he has already abdicated his role and responsibilities as county executive, even though he is still collecting a county paycheck:

A reply from Walker Tuesday to a reporter’s question on a court ruling affecting his emergency county budget actions drew this reply:

“I am out of the office until 01/01/2011.

“With my election as Governor of Wisconsin effective January 3, 2011, I will not be returning to my office for the purposes of receiving emails. County activity should be directed to lee.holloway@milwcnty.com

In fact, Walker has not been in the office much at all since the election in November, a full eight weeks ago. (To be perfectly honest, Walker has been abdicating his duties for years as he focused on his campaign.)  At his current rate of salary, that means Walker collected about $20,000 of tax payer money, even though he wasn’t fulfilling his responsibilities.

As noted above, the County doesn’t have the money that they can afford to just give away that kind of money and have nothing to show in return.  Scott Walker, showing that he is truly the fiscal conservative he claims to be, should return that money immediately.

We don’t really expect either Walker or his campaign to reimburse the money that they have taken from County and from the tax payers.  If he was a true fiscal conservative, he wouldn’t have pulled these stunts to begin with.

We do sincerely hope, however, that the County Board recognizes that feeding into a political stunt does not resolve problems, but can actually exasperate the problems that they were suppose to resolve

We also hope that the County Board sits down with the unions and, in good faith,  restarts negotiations so that they make  the best contract that they can in order to prevent further losses such as today’s ruling.

 

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