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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Issue of the Week: Walker’s Pals Get Lifetime Job Security in the Public Sector

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News broke last week that Scott Walker’s former administrative director at the county, Cindy Archer, is moving up in the salary ranks at the state. Since Walker took office as governor, Archer has moved from one high-paying job to another even higher-paying job again and again.

As you probably recall, Archer worked for Walker at the county. She was a member of Walker’s inner circle that ran and coordinated county and Walker campaign operations on a secret private router in the county executive’s suite. Archer is all over the emails and was a main conduit between illegal coordination of the county office and the campaign. Some have sarcastically quipped that perhaps that’s how she developed her “IT expertise.” Anyway, it was activities such as these that caused the FBI to raid her Madison house in 2011.

Archer’s new job is not a political appointment, but rather a permanent civil service position in the office of the state public defender, and how she landed that job is a bit curious. Those who have applied for a state civil service job understand the rigorous process the state uses to try to keep the process totally professional and to hopefully find the most qualified candidate. In Archer’s case, she didn’t even apply for the job, so she wasn’t considered by the hiring panel. Rather, she was approached by the state Public Defender, Kelli Thompson, an appointee with a five-year term, to take the job because of her “IT expertise.” Archer was convinced to take the $113,000 job, almost $30,000 more than her predecessor earned, and since it’s a civil service job, Archer will stay in that position even after Walker leaves office. This totally violates the civil service procedures.

Archer’s promotion is curious on the face of it, and even more so when you consider her dubious history with the secret private router in the county executive’s office.

Archer, like other central figures in Walker’s campaign scheme, has landed on her feet with top-paying jobs in the public sector that seem to have just fallen into her lap. In addition to Archer, Walker’s former county spokeswoman, Fran McLaughlin, who was granted immunity from prosecution in the first John Doe probe and routinely forwarded county emails to the campaign for their direction and approval, now works for Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and is paid almost $80,000 a year. Jim Villa, a lobbyist for the commercial Realtors who is close to Walker, is now vice president for university relations at the University of Wisconsin System. The governor, in fact, was one of Villa’s job references. Villa will now earn $178,000 annually in this civil service job and he can continue in that job even when Walker leaves office.

Villa, like Archer and McLaughlin, pops up again and again in the county/campaign emails and he was Kelly Rindfleisch’s landlord while she committed felony misconduct in office as Walker’s deputy chief of staff. In fact, Villa was the one who tipped off Rindfleisch about the district attorney’s interest in the county executive office’s activities.

Something about these hires just doesn’t feel right. They are not in accordance with the highly nonpartisan and ethical way Wisconsin’s civil service system operated. Wisconsin used to have a strong, fair, nonpartisan and very professional civil service system, which formed the backbone of the state’s operations no matter who was governor. At state government conferences, Wisconsin was always held up as one of the top two or three states that were real leaders in honest and efficient government. Sadly, that is all changing as we see Wisconsin now being compared to Louisiana and Mississippi.