Chancellor Kopper’s Belated Statement on Another Federal Complaint

Today, only after publication of an account of a second Title IX complaint against UW-Whitewater from a second sexual assault survivor, Chancellor Kopper finally chose to issue a statement in her own words (assuming that she wrote it). I have published that statement in full, at the bottom of this post. (For the story on this second complaint, see, Sex assault survivor claims discrimination by university @ Channel 3000, WISC-TV.)

There is no reasonable person who contends that being “committed” is a statement. It’s an action.

And yet, and yet, even the statement finally issued under Chancellor Kopper’s own name reveals the indifference of her prior efforts – she now feels it necessary to begin her second paragraph with the tired phrase, “let me be clear…”

If Kopper had been clear, even in prior words alone, she would not need to remind readers of her self-professed clarity of views.

To those in the university’s Media Relations group – either your chancellor cannot issue a statement without revealing her past indifference, or you cannot draft one for her.

There should be – and so there will be – no end of effort until the institutional misconduct that has failed two women (and perhaps more men and women) ends.

One sees, also, that Kopper falsely professes to avoid speaking about this pending complaint, but simultaneously declares that “[a]ll complaints are reviewed with respect and compassion for all involved.”

No, and no again: that’s the very question at issue here. By asserting that all complaints have been reviewed with “respect and compassion” Kopper most certainly does address the allegations in this pending investigation, by categorically denying their possibility of being true.

A future assault survivor will read Kopper’s words and recognize that past survivors’ claims have been categorically denied.  This is an assurance of a chilling effect against future reporting.

Why can she not see this?  Honest to goodness, is there no one in her office who can think matters through?

Thus she hides behind a pending investigation selectively, contending that she cannot speak only when it suits her.

In any event, a statement will not suffice. A change of institutional conduct – and removal of those culpable of misconduct – is needed here.

See, please, the It’s On Us Campaign and Not Alone, a site for those who have experienced sexual assault with resources of support.

Chancellor Kopper’s statement immediately follows —

Message regarding recent Title IX complaint

Dear Campus Community,

You may be aware through media reports that a second complaint has been filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that UW-Whitewater may have violated Title IX. Because of the ongoing investigation, I am not in a position to discuss specifics. Our campus will cooperate fully with the Office for Civil Rights as it investigates.

Let me be clear, UW-Whitewater has been and remains committed to raising awareness about the impact of sexual violence and taking steps toward preventing any occurrence of sexual violence on our campus. All complaints are reviewed with respect and compassion for all involved.

I know that all across campus there are faculty, staff and students who are engaged in efforts to help promote a campus climate that is free from violence and discrimination, and I applaud those efforts. As a community, we pride ourselves on being a safe and welcoming place for all.

Please understand that if you have been the victim of a sexual assault, you are not alone. There are people within the UW-Whitewater community here to support you. Retaliation for reporting is strictly prohibited. We encourage you to report sexual assault to UW-Whitewater Police at 262-472-4660 or the Dean of Students office at 262-472-1533.

The campus website offers many resources to help keep you safe: http://www.uww.edu/sexual-misconduct-information/keeping-safe

Sincerely,
Beverly Kopper
Chancellor

https://announcements.uww.edu/Details/12523

A Second Sex-Assault Survivor Files Federal Complaint Against UW-Whitewater

Raechel-liska-650-jpg
Raechel Liska, aged 22.  Photo from Channel 3000.

Link to Ms. Liska’s video interview, available online

Raechel Liska, aged 22, an honors student and Army ROTC candidate at UW-Whitewater, has filed a sexual discrimination action with the U.S. Department of Education, Civil Rights Division, against our local university.

This is the second federal action that a sexual assault survivor has filed against the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the last eighteen months.

At WISC-TV, investigative journalist Adam Schrager reports on Ms. Liska’s complaint, one that contends that the university’s conduct in her case is “reflective of a systemic gender-based (response) that favored [her] male assailant.” See, Sex assault survivor claims discrimination by university @ Channel 3000, WISC-TV.

Assaulted twice

Ms. Liska was violently assaulted, but when she sought recourse – as federal law (and mere humanity) – requires, she met with a further tragedy:

“I got assaulted twice,” Liska said. “Once by my attacker, which was the traumatic, horrific part, but again by the school, which was the betrayal.”

Liska said UWW Dean of Students Mary Beth Mackin violated her civil rights by refusing to interview two witnesses and by not accepting either the police report or her medical records stemming from the incident. She also asserts Mackin did not issue a no-contact order against her alleged attacker, even as he retaliated and intimidated her after she spoke to authorities. Further, it was the Army that stepped in and removed her assailant from her classes three months after the incident in question, even after she’d asked the university to do the same multiple times, only to be rebuffed.

“The reason I filed my complaint is because something here needs to change,” she said. “I thought the dean of students would be protecting the students, protecting me. She’s the dean of students. I thought I’d be her priority, but I walked out feeling like protecting the school was her top priority.”

Dean of Students Mary Beth Mackin’s gross misconduct

Ms. Liska accomplished much, and loved the university, but that university treated her injuriously and shamefully:

She also asserts that Mackin never informed her of her Title IX rights after she made her initial report and did not provide her with a sexual assault advocate on campus. Liska remains on campus now studying to become a high school history teacher. She said she’s coming forward now because she doesn’t want any other UWW students to experience what she’s gone through.

“It doesn’t matter to me specifically what their opinions are of the assault itself. What matters to me is how people feel I was treated by the institution I trusted most,” she said. “I want my face and my name attached to this story. I want it to be personal. I want people to take it personally and I want there to be change out of it.”

After Raechel Liska was assaulted, and after her mistreatment from one of the university’s leading administrators, the university still used Ms. Liska’s picture to promote UW-Whitewater as a safe and welcoming place:

The university is currently distributing a pamphlet to new and prospective students that prominently features Liska in uniform on a page titled, “Leaders and Mentors.”

“I am really bothered that the university still uses me as an exemplary image but is so resistant to helping me at my most vulnerable time,” she said.

Raped, ignored and mistreated by her university, and yet used as a public-relations pawn by that same university.

What would be worse: that this university media-relations team is so obtuse that they cannot see the injury use of Ms. Liska’s promotional picture represents, that they are so indifferent they simply do not care, that they are so parsimonious that they will use the picture rather than publish a new one, or that they manipulatively think use of the picture would somehow impress Ms. Liska?

So let us hope, Dieu aidant, that we should never become so contemptible as officials of this ilk.

Chancellor Beverly Kopper hides behind her spokeswoman

Astonishingly, Chancellor Beverly Kopper cannot be troubled to respond to these allegations in her own voice. Instead, she hides behind a spokeswoman’s dull, stale statement:

“UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper believes that providing a safe environment for students, faculty and staff is her first priority,” wrote Sara Kuhl, UWW’s director of marketing and media relations, in a statement to News 3. “UW-Whitewater has been and remains committed to raising awareness about the existence and impact of sexual violence and taking active steps toward preventing the occurrence of sexual violence on campus. UW-Whitewater takes all complaints very seriously and every complaint is handled with care and compassion for all parties involved.”

Scripture records that God spoke thorough Moses, and Moses spoke through Aaron, but I am quite convinced that Beverly Kopper is neither Creator nor Prophet – it is a measure of either profound ignorance or arrogance that Kopper would not speak in her own words.

This is the second accusation that directly and specifically names Mary Beth Mackin:

The first Title IX complaint against the school was filed in January 2014. The survivor in that case alleged that UWW administrators, specifically Mackin, missed appointments, hurried conversations and failed to interview key witnesses to her claims. Federal investigators have been on campus interviewing students and administrators about those allegations.

I would invite readers to read Mr. Schrager’s full account.  See, Sex assault survivor claims discrimination by university @ Channel 3000, WISC-TV.  The WISC-TV broadcast story is scheduled to air @ 10 PM Thursday evening, 11.5.15.

Previously, see How UW-Whitewater Treated a Sexual Assault Victim (referring to a story, also from Adam Schrager at WISC-TV, on another assault survivor’s gross mistreatment while at UW-Whitewater).

There will be more to publish on this matter, and updates as developments warrant.

One assault survivor abused was too many; two similarly abused are a grave offense against individual dignity, common morality, and American standards of justice and fairness.

See, also, the It’s On Us Campaign and Not Alone, a site for those who have experienced sexual assault with resources of support.

Budget Problems as a Mask for Internal Problems

There are significant shortfalls for K-12 funding and state funding for the UW System.

These shortfalls involve hundreds of millions, and that alters the landscape at public institutions (at some more than others).

Still, It won’t be true, because it cannot be true, that every problem one might encounter will be the consequence of fiscal policy. 

Many good events, and many bad ones, will happen apart from a reduction from one budget to another. 

In the case of properly addressing sexual assaults on campus, for example, it’s simply not true that a UW System school’s revenue last year, or next year, will be material in determining whether fair procedures are adopted and consistently executed. 

There is no fiscal reason whatever that any UW System school should find itself less able next year than it was last year to address properly campus assaults. 

It’s very possible that some schools will fail to address these crimes, and fail to respond to the victims of these crimes properly. 

If they should fail, they will not have their budgets to blame, but instead any mistakes will more likely be from their poor priorities, misguided values, or utter laziness.  More troubling, truly: these would be poor priorities, misguided values, or utter laziness in the face of others’ serious injuries. 

One may yet hear, though, that the budget was somehow to blame.  No, and no again: leaders are responsible for proper priorities and allocations, and lack of money has not been our only problem these several years.

Budget problems must not become a mask for serious, unethical, internal problems. 

On this point, there is no reason to give ground, anytime, to anyone.  

If Universities Want Federal Money…

If universities want federal money (and they want as much as they can get), then it’s wrong for them to shirk federal legal standards for reporting assault and for proper treatment of those alleging assault. 

(Make no mistake: I’d contend that universities have a duty to manage campuses well and fairly even if there were no federal laws.  Ethical obligations of this kind are prior to law, and exist independently of it.)

Here, though, there’s a despicable hypocrisy: university officials gulp as much federal money as they can get, but of federal procedural standards for victims there may be not even a drop of support.

This libertarian has argued against any number of federal, state, or local governmental intrusions; I’ve argued against as many federal, state, and local expenditures. 

It’s impossible to respect university administrators who seek federal money while simultaneously concealing & mishandling assault claims, or trivializing federal or state standards about assault reporting.   

Administrators of that ilk want to promote themselves at taxpayers’ expense, and then hide their own misconduct from any and all. 

No, and no again: no one’s entitled to that. 

UW-Madison Now Joins UW-Whitewater Under Federal Title IX Investigation

In the Wisconsin State Journal this morning, one reads that a second Wisconsin school is under investigation for its handling of sexual assault complaints.  Dan Simmons writes that

UW-Madison is now the second university in the state to be included in a growing probe of possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The investigation now targets 101 schools, including UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater. The initial investigation was launched last May and included 55 schools, Whitewater among them.

See, in full, UW-Madison under federal investigation for handling of sexual violence complaints @ State Journal.

Investigations of this sort can involve either how a university reports incidents of sexual assault, or how it treats those who are trying to report allegations of sexual assault. 

One should be clear: federal law does not mandate – needless to say – that there will be no crimes on campus.  Federal law simply requires that, following allegations of sexual assault, universities that receive federal money will process complaints thoroughly and treat those involved in complaints fairly.

One would hope for campuses without violence; these present laws simply require that institutions taking federal public money should address allegations of assault to the high standards of which America is capable. 

There are thousands of four-year colleges in America; each one should be able to meet existing reporting and procedural requirements. 

That’s not asking too much; it’s asking only for the fundamental fairness and thoroughness our society deserves. 

The Hunting Ground


Academy-award nominated filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have a new film now in limited-release, entitled, The Hunting Ground, about campus sexual assault.  The film addresses violence, institutional cover-ups, and the damage done to victims & families from both assault and subsequent, institutional misconduct. 

The official trailer for the film is embedded above. 

(The same filmmakers received an Oscar nomination for their 2012 film, The Invisible War, about sexual assault in the military. The Invisible War earned widespread professional acclaim, having received eleven professional nominations and having won nine.)

Related links:

Review: ‘The Hunting Ground’ Documentary, a Searing Look at Campus Rape @ New York Times.

Taking the Pledge.  “Take the Pledge: commit to holding your college accountable. It’s not only survivors jobs to hold their schools accountable, it’s everybody’s job – students, parents, alumni, teachers. Pledge here and we’ll keep you informed of news and actions taking place on college campuses across the US. We’ll also ask you to take a stand and show your support as our campaign heats up and we solidify screenings of THE HUNTING GROUND on more college campuses.”

It’s On Us Campaign.

Not Alone, a site with supportive resources for those who have experienced sexual assault.

Injustice in Walworth County Wrongly Sends a Fourteen-Year-Old to Jail

On February 11, 2015, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District II, reversed an order of the Walworth County Circuit Court, and ordered a new trial for a minor child, identified as Charles C.S. Jr., aged fourteen at the time of his conviction. See, State v. Charles C. S., Jr., No. 2014AP1045, unpublished (Wis. Ct. App. Feb. 11, 2015), available at https://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=134396.

Charles spent a year incarcerated after an unjust conviction in which the appeals court found that

(1) a Walworth County Sheriff’s Department investigator gave “demonstrably false testimony” under oath about conversations with a witness,
(2) a Walworth County Asst. District Attorney introduced clearly inadmissible evidence and argued evidence that was not true, and
(3) Charles’s defense counsel was deficient for failing to object to the false testimony or legally-prohibited prosecution arguments.

At the end of this post, I have embedded the written decision of the appellate court, as dated and filed on 2.11.15.

I’ll write more about this matter tomorrow, with a series of questions for those involved.

Today, I’m posting the appellate court decision and order. There are two reasons for posting the ruling, mostly on its own, today.

First, the court’s reasoning and ruling speak for themselves.

Second, in our area, we seldom see original documents like this published, as the pressure against the local press for displaying them causes those papers to shy away.

Americans are, and should always be, of stronger stuff than that.

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Local Policing and Point-of-View Cameras

There’s a story about my town’s (Whitewater, Wisconsin’s) decision to equip its on-patrol officers with point-of-view cameras. A small video camera will record officer interactions with residents. Reportedly, all interactions will be recorded, and at the

end of each shift, officers [will] download all videos into a general file that would get deleted automatically after 120 days. But videos of more significant actions — an arrest, chase, fight or anything an officer thinks might warrant more review — gets saved to a different location from which only supervisors may delete a video.

There are two questions about any POV recording regimen: will you record, and under what circumstances? There’s nothing wrong (and much benefit) with recording encounters, just as there’s no legal impedient to residents ordinarily photographing officers or public buildings, etc.

Quite simply, in a free society photography is not a crime, and it’s not a right only of a few.

Candidly, if the police are to record encounters, the only sensible policy is to record all encounters. Any other option will inevitably raise suspicion that officers record selectively only in circumstances that show them favorably, but decline to record encounters in which they might be acting outside of policy or the law.

One reads that in nearby Edgerton, Wisconsin, local officials decided to allow recordings from a body cam at an officer’s discretion. (Perhaps they’ve changed their policy since; I don’t know.)

A selective approach should never be any town’s policy, and the Edgerton city attorney’s explanation from 2011 of why selective recording should be allowed shows how ignorant or patronizing his argument is:

City attorney Dale Pope acknowledged that’s a very “subjective” standard, but he told the council that narrowing the guidelines for use of the cameras wouldn’t necessarily help.

“The problem you have is it’s very difficult to define a standard that’s going to work all the time,” Pope said.

Pope said if the city had a mandate that officers should activate a body cam at every traffic stop, and an officer forgot one time, it could inadvertently appear as an impropriety or that the officer was “trying to cover something up.”

Got that? It’s better to permit ever-present suspicion from selective use than risk occasional suspicion when an officer fails (or chooses not) to activate his video camera.

The two kinds of suspicion would not, of course, be the same: the first is endemic to a willy-nilly exercise of discretion, while the second would be a rarer, but legitimate concern about whether officers failed to comply with policy (cameras always on) or sought to hide misconduct.

Hard to say what’s worse: that Edgerton’s city attorney couldn’t see this distinction or that he hoped others couldn’t see it.

(It’s not the first example of poor policing in Edgerton. For more about the failure of Edgerton’s police force to handle properly a pursuit K9, see these posts 1, 2, 3, and 4, and 5.)

The only sound policy for a POV camera (or dash cam) is always on during each and every encounter, to exonerate officers of false charges and confirm legitimate charges of misconduct.

Posted earlier at Daily Adams.

The Disgrace that is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

Sometimes one would prefer to be wrong, rather than right. The waste, errors, exaggerations, and lies of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation are such a case:

Madison — Three Senate Democrats asked Wednesday [6.12] for a criminal investigation of Gov. Scott Walker’s signature job creation agency.

The request comes after an audit last month found the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. didn’t require financial statements from companies receiving incentives, gave awards to ineligible businesses and awarded nearly $1 million in tax credits to companies for actions taken before they had signed their contracts with the state. The agency didn’t adequately follow up to see if jobs were being created and didn’t clearly report the jobs numbers that it did have, the report by the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau found.

For every official of Whitewater’s municipal government, Community Development Authority, or the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater who ever boasted of ties with the WEDC, here’s an inescapable truth: you’ve sought an alliance with a corrupt, dishonest agency, a crony-capitalist disgrace to all Wisconsin.

The price of self-promotion, flimsy claims, and wasted resources has been too high for our state’s people. Having ignored sound economics and others’ genuine & pressing needs, each and every official who’s sought advantage through the Wisconsin Economic Development Authority has a share in that selfish disaster.

The people of our small city, and our whole state, have always deserved better.

(For prior criticism of the WEDC at this website, please see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

Tomorrow: An update about Walworth County’s proposed purchase of so-called parkland.

The (Also Bad) Alternatives to Concealment

Suppose the owner of a mansion awakes to discover that his many precious paintings have disappeared from the estate’s gallery.

Consider a few, alternative scenarios:

In the first, he walks through empty hallways, all his collection now gone. He finds no one else in the house, and no trace of an intruder. Someone took the owner’s paintings, but the culprit concealed his tracks nicely.

In the second scenario, the owner awakes to find his paintings missing, but he also notices some unusual footprints, a crumpled Hershey Bar wrapper, and a note that says, “Thanks for making it so easy to take all your estate’s masterpieces. I’ve always wanted to steal them.”

In a third scenario, the owner again awakes to find his paintings missing, but he also spots a cart filled with all the valuable paintings, and an intruder, dressed in black and wearing a mask, holding a toy poodle on a leash.

Furious, the owner screams out, “What do you think you’re doing, here?”

The cat burglar promptly replies, “I’m walking my dog.”

Would anyone feel contented, after hearing that explanation?

The theft is wrong in all three scenarios, but there’s a particular temerity in the third situation’s declaration that the visit was really just an innocent dog-walk.

Someone trying to take something valuable, but offering only a ludicrous or trivial justification, is even more troublesome than someone who says nothing or candidly admits to an illegitimate scheme.

That shamelessness is an additional problem, likely to play itself out as often as it can.

How Local Government Has It Easier Than Yelp

Yelp may be a popular website for positing restaurant (and other) reviews, but it has a controversy on its hands. Some businesses are complaining about Yelp’s practice of hiding some reviews behind a link (that is, where one has to click the link to see all posted reviews). Some restaurateurs contend that Yelp hides favorable reviews to punish establishments that won’t advertise on Yelp.

(Yelp denies this, and an academic review of Yelp’s practices suggests that at least there’s no readily-apparent bias in how Yelp displays reviews.)

Yelp has a problem because its formula for displaying reviews is a company secret that breeds suspicion that it’s a rigged formula. (Ironically, Yelp contends that it hides the method by which it assesses reviews to keep businesses from gaming the website’s process).

Local government has it easier, at least in Wisconsin: follow publsihed rules for Open Meetings (Wis. Stats. §§ 19.81-19.98) and Public Records (Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31 – 19.39) and the resulting transparency will reduce suspicion and rumor.

There’s no need to craft a particular strategy to deal with public concerns – the law lays out – and requires – a particular path.

Why, then, if local governments have a mandatory legal framework that should make official conduct more open and reputable, do so many officials tend toward the secretive and hidden?

They do this should they place their own private needs and interests – including a should limitless need for grand tales of their own supposed triumphs – ahead of clear law and good policy. They discard the ready-made framework of the law, and fall into a situation not much different from Yelp.

Officials’ abandonment of good law for selfish private action is both wrong specifically and impractical generally. Just as no official is above the law, so no community deserves conditions beneath the law. That lower condition is one of errors of planning and allocation, and a condition that could have been avoid with the transparency that the law requires.

More about the Yelp reviews controversy:

The Truth about the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

A person should be able to make simple distinctions, as between the sensible and foolish, or practical and impractical. Sometimes those distinctions should be clear, and as stark as the difference between the contents of a sample cup and a glass of Chardonnay.

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You’ll hear a lot locally over the next few days about a ‘partnership’ between Whitewater and Gov. Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the public-private hybrid replacement for the Wisconsin Dept. of Commerce.

You’ve probably read in these last few days that there’s more to the WEDC than grant funding. This agency has been a train wreck since its formation. It’s an inefficient, mistake-prone exercise in crony capitalism on a grand scale.

Here’s what publicity-mad insiders don’t want you to recall about the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation:

The WEDC wanted hundreds of millions in people’s pension funds. See, WEDC request rejected | $200 million was sought from state pension fund.

This supposedly private venture relies on public money, from ordinary taxpayers, to pick and choose businesses it prefers. Greedy for more, the current head of the WEDC

….Reed Hall asked the State of Wisconsin Investment Board in November for the venture capital seed money. The board rejected the request late last year, saying that the use of pension funds to pay for economic development initiatives “does not meet our fiduciary duty.”

These aren’t private men investing their own money – they’re public men avariciously looking for every last dollar of public money they can control, even from the pensions of ordinary workers.

That’s their vision, their proactive approach, their supposedly new idea: to take from weaker people while ignoring people’s basic needs.

The WEDC has neglected millions in taxpayer funded loans. See, Neglected WEDC taxpayer-financed loans grow to $12.2 million.

Borrowers have fallen behind in making payments on taxpayer-funded loans worth $12.2 million in total that were neglected by officials at the state’s top jobs agency – $3 million more than was previously believed to be at risk.

As of Nov. 2, borrowers were late in making payments totaling $2.5 million, but the state could easily end up losing more than that, records show. One late borrower, Flambeau River Biofuels, is unlikely to repay $2 million of its outstanding loans from the state, though the amount currently past due is only a fraction of that total, according to state figures and past interviews with its owner.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Friday afternoon turned over the information on the 67 past-due loans and a stack of other documents in response to an open records request by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

There’s Whitewater’s new ‘partner’: a negligent organization that doesn’t properly account for the people’s money.

The WEDC has tried to conceal its problems. See, WEDC won’t say whether past-due loans top $9 million.

…the state’s top jobs agency isn’t saying whether the total amount owed to taxpayers by scores of unnamed businesses could go higher than the $9 million figure that officials first estimated.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. told the Journal Sentinel that the agency wouldn’t provide information on the total owed until it finishes an internal review that will take an unspecified amount of time. “WEDC is developing a corrective action plan. It is reviewing each loan and the status of each loan. We will provide additional information when we have completed the review,” WEDC spokesman Tom Thieding said.

Last week, the newspaper [MJS] reported that the agency had discovered it had failed to systematically track nearly $9 million in loans that are not current. As a result, WEDC’s chief financial officer resigned and GOP Gov. Scott Walker, a champion of the quasi-public agency created last year, brought in a new interim leader.

If one had a drunk, coma victim, or skid-row bum for a partner, he’d still be more responsible than this agency.

The WEDC has been the subject of federal complaints. See, Walker aide apologizes over handling of WEDC federal complaints.

Most people shy away from misconduct in public affairs, and one good reason would be when a state agency is under federal investigation:

Gov. Scott Walker’s top cabinet secretary apologized to the state’s flagship jobs board Thursday for not telling them about sharp criticism from the federal government about legal violations by the state and promised to keep them better informed in the future.

The apology by Department of Administration secretary Mike Huebsch came after a member of the Wisconsin Economic Development Board told Walker that he is frustrated about the lack of communication and will resign if it doesn’t improve. Huebsch, a nonvoting member of the WEDC board, had said he had first wanted to resolve the outstanding issues with HUD – initially raised more than a year ago.

“I should have brought this to the board earlier and it was my mistake not to do that. . . . I thought it was premature but it clearly wasn’t,” Huebsch told the board in a telephone conference Thursday. “I will certainly err on the side of providing greater information in the future.”

The WEDC has a mediocre jobs record. See, Second review gives low marks to state jobs agency.

Even a second review’s not the charm:

Another independent report has found that the tracking of millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded loans at the state’s flagship jobs agency hasn’t measured up, and Gov. Scott Walker could soon be interviewing finalists to turn the agency around.

The latest report by a subsidiary of the state bankers group showed that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. didn’t have the right bookkeeping policies, computer systems and collection procedures to track the loans that the agency made to businesses. Walker, who also serves as the chairman of the WEDC board, last year signed legislation creating the organization as a replacement for the former Department of Commerce.

In a four-hour meeting of the WEDC board Tuesday at the Marshfield Clinic in Eau Claire, Walker acknowledged and pledged to correct the failures in basic accounting practices at the quasi-public agency that in recent months have drawn attention away from its mission of creating jobs.

There we are. Just a quick survey of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation shows it to be one of the worst-performing organizations in the state.

A sensible man or woman would do well to stay as far away from the WEDC as possible. It’s only the foolish or the gluttonous who’d hold out their hands, asking from this agency for as much public money as they could carry away.

In any event, it’s worth watching and tracking what happens to these grants, as it is for all the money the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has taken from the public.

Update: The Dismissal of Palmyra’s Police Chief, Charles Warren

An update to an earlier post on Palmyra’s dismissal of Police Chief Charles Warren: I withheld a comment on the matter (it was mostly fine, with one impediment), but I’d like to respond here to the contention that Warren and other officials should be accountable for their actions.

Yes, I agree; I simply don’t know enough about the charges to say whether dismissal was reasonable.

I do know how rare any action is, in any city, town, or village: most commissioners can’t image holding anyone accountable.

Leadership accountability doesn’t make a police force worse; it makes it better. Needless to say, a selfish leader is quick to conflate a single role with that of an entire department, or to insist that any criticism is an attack on all policing. Were such a defense valid, no politician could be impeached, or no principal fired, despite his or her conduct in office.

Weak leaders across Wisconsin surround themselves with commissioners who will shy from legitimate oversight that, in fact, makes for better leaders, supported field officers, and safer communities.

I may be unsure about particular circumstances in Palmyra, but I’ve no doubt about a general policy of leadership accountability.

The Dismissal of Palmyra’s Police Chief, Charles Warren

Last week, Palmyra’s Police Commission, on a 2-1 vote, fired Chief Charles Warren. Warren had been police chief of the village’s force for five years. Both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Jefferson County Daily Union reported on Warren’s dismissal.

The Police Commission action followed an autumn hearing on the complaint of Gary Byers, a village resident and former Milwaukee police detective. The complaint alleging misconduct concerned Warren’s handling of a marijuana case, an accidental overdose case, and a child enticement case.

Warren’s attorney, Paul Bucher, has threatened further action.

A few observations:

Dismissal is rare. Few officers, let alone leaders, are dismissed. (The vogue term is to call police leaders part of the ‘command staff,’ but Palmyra’s very small, and no town in Wisconsin is anything like the Pentagon or a fighting front, in any event.)

Real oversight is rare. Most people, on most police commissions, in most places, mean well. But, few get their positions because they’re actual watchdogs. They get their jobs because they’re supportive, so supportive that they boost rather than scrutinize. Really, a solid chief should be able to get by without maneuvering sycophants onto a police commission, but the weaker the chief, the more important stacking the deck becomes.

In particularly bad situations, chief and commissioners will pat each other on the back, and issue mutually supportive and congratulatory declarations as often as they can. Leaders shouldn’t need these things, and commissioners shouldn’t seek them, but mediocrity invites a treacly neediness for a circle of praise.

Is Warren’s dismissal the proper exercise of oversight? I don’t know. Two of the cases are less serious than the accusations of possible child enticement in the third. I do know that the published accounts to which I have linked describe decisions and actions probably similar to those in dozens of other Wisconsin towns.

(Palmyra, one reads, doesn’t have written procedures for some of the situations described in the complaint against Warren. Palmyra is not alone, among Wisconsin towns & villages, in that regard.)

An officer or chief could be culpable of misconduct even apart from written guidelines; my point is that if Warren should be so, many others have been, too.

Does Warren’s dismissal help or hurt the cause of oversight, generally? By itself, this case is so rare that it will gain attention, but probably make no lasting impression on the state. So few commissions address discipline of officers or leaders that many police commissioners in Wisconsin probably cannot imagine any disciplinary hearing of any kind (let alone one involving possible dismissal).

Commissioners typically play no role in discipline, and learn only about it only in a pro forma way (if they learn at all). Wisconsin law allows commissioners in cities disciplinary authority (Wis. Stat. 62.13(5)); they seldom exercise it.

Commissioners across Wisconsin have probably heard about this case and either see it as proof of a very poor leader or a very loose, ill-controlled commission.

What happens next? It all depends on what Warren, through his attorney, wants. Does the chief want a settlement of some sort, or does he really want a day in court (not as a prospect to force a settlement, but for its own sake)?

There’s more ahead, but how much more depends on how practical the parties are.

Racine Journal Times Investigation Uncovers Municipal Abuses in Mount Pleasant

For those who obstinately contend that bureaucrats and politicians are always and forever public servants, selfless, giving of themselves, exist for a better community, etc., a compelling refutation will be found in a series from the Racine Journal Times, entitled, “JT investigates: Climate of fear in Mount Pleasant.”

The JT describes the series:

The abrupt firing of the Mount Pleasant village administrator last spring raised many questions in the community over the reasons for the village board’s actions and whether the board had been diligent in its oversight of that position and the operations of village hall.

Without a public records request from the Journal Times, residents would not have known that “days before he was unceremoniously ousted as village administrator, Mike Andreasen had been locked out of his office and his computer was seized by police….” See, Police seized administrator’s computer, supervised his departure.

Without a public records request, residents wouldn’t know that

Just days before the late Mike Andreasen was removed from office, village staff had painted a picture of the former village administrator as the “tyrant” of Village Hall who bullied employees, especially women, and drove them to tears and even professional help….

See, Secret records allege abuse.

Had the newspaper not filed a lawsuit to compel a reply to its records request, residents wouldn’t know that local officials ignored residents’ many complaints about their village administrator’s abusive conduct (concealed from the public, but known all-too-painfully to his victims).

After months of repeatedly denied requests for more information regarding the abrupt removal of the late former village administrator, records obtained through a lawsuit settlement with the Village of Mount Pleasant suggest some board members may have turned a blind eye to various employees’ pleas going as far back as late 2009.

See, Reports: Trustees ignored Village Hall complaints.

Mount Pleasant’s officials owed those they ill-served far more than these unfortunate employees and fellow residents received. Instead of humble, plain, effective services, ordinary people received abuse and hypocrisy at at the hands of a self-interested tyrant and his supportive ilk.

The Journal Times has done Mount Pleasant, and all Wisconsin, a true and worthy service.

Six Years in Prison for Legally Recording a Police Officer?

Photography and video recordings both protect honest police departments against false accusations and assure communities receive information about instances of official misconduct. When citizens exercise their rights to photography and video recording, they are also bolstering the work of good officers by helping identify a few corrupt ones.

Yet not everyone sees it this way, so some departments will fight recordings, including charging videographers (even ones from news stations) as criminals. Departments and prosecutors who don’t want their misuse of power revealed will further misuse that power to prevent being found out.

Here’s a video that describes the charges against a citizen in Florida for making a lawful recording:



Lessons from the Talented Dr. Steven Hayne’s Career

I wrote last week about Dr. Steven Hayne, the incompetent forensic pathologist from Mississippi whose mistakes led to numerous wrongful convictions in that state. He made nothing but excuses — fantastic ones — when critics began to confront him. It took years for critics’ exposure of his shabby, shoddy practices to bring change to Mississippi. (See, The Talented Dr. Steven Hayne.)

Where a just man wouldn’t have done half the things Hayne did, and where a decent man who did any of them would have resigned after being confronted, Hayne clung to his office, continued his bad work, and defied reason for years.

There are countless lessons from Hayne’s career. I think about his bad example often, and from it one can gain insight into less extreme cases, too.

1. A Chair. For selfish officials, there’s nothing more important than retaining office.

2. Contempt for Principle. If having a chair matters much, then principle matters not at all. Men like this only understand having a having a position, not taking one, so to speak. They think value comes from a situation, not a belief.

3. Words. As a consequence of being unprincipled, they’ll say anything to keep power, contradicting yesterday’s views with today’s if they feel it’s useful. They have no underlying conviction exception the conviction that they deserve an official place or post.

4. Useful Allies. Corrupt, incompetent officials are sure to get the support of other corrupt, incompetent officials. Even incumbents who aren’t rotten will often defend mediocrities. Incumbents have a preference for other incumbents.

Bad officials are so situational that they’re like a dog in a story I once heard.

A dog, staying inside a house during the day, hears the mailman visit each day at noon. The dog anticipates the visit, and starts to become angry just before noon. At noon, as he hears the mailman approaching the porch’s mailbox, the dog begins to bark like mad. The canine keeps barking, until he hears the footsteps of the mailman fade away from the house.

Each time, after the mailman leaves, the dog is reassured that his barking forced a potential intruder away. From the animal’s point-of-view, he’s successfully defended the house yet again, as he does day after day at noon.

We know that the dog’s done nothing of the sort; the dog, limited by his surroundings to the exclusion of a broader perspective, can’t see what’s really happening.

In a similar way, small-minded officials cannot see the broader, more powerful trends sweeping through their communities. If anything, an insider’s view actually leads them astray.

It is the lack of principle and perspective, and the underestimation of strong forces in the world beyond an office door, that often undoes the mediocre.

That, and critics’ patient persistence.

The Talented Dr. Steven Hayne

Dr. Steven Hayne is a forensic pathologist in Mississippi. He’s a fraud and liar, too. Here’s a description of his method (citations omitted):

Until 2008, Hayne performed about 80 to 90 percent of criminal autopsies in Mississippi, and has testified to performing more than 1,500 autopsies per year. Performing more than 325 autopsies per year is considered a “Phase II deficiency” by the National Association of Medical Examiners, and prevents an office from being accredited. While performing these autopsies, Hayne also regularly appeared in court to testify as a forensic expert, and held down two hospital jobs.

Hayne’s well-educated, but he applied his schooling and intellect to a method that was substandard in every way, leading errors, mistakes, and wrongful convictions.

Hayne’s shoddy work and testimony are responsible for placing innocent men on death row.

In 2008, Mississippi finally barred Hayne from performing any more autopsies within the state.

For more on Hayne’s disgraceful career, see the excellent work of Radley Balko (formerly of Reason, soon to be at the Huffington Post):

Balko, Radley (November 2007). “CSI: Mississippi: A case study in expert testimony gone horribly wrong.” Reason Magazine. http://www.reason.com/news/show/122458.html. Retrieved 2009-09-18.

Balko, Radley (October 2006). “The Case of Cory Maye: A cop is dead, an innocent man may be on death row, and drug warriors keep knocking down doors.” Reason Magazine. http://www.reason.com/news/show/36869.html. Retrieved 2009-09-18.

Balko, Radley (September 1, 2009). “Update in Mississippi: Titles Are Free!” Reason: Hit and Run. Reason Magazine. http://www.reason.com/blog/show/135818.html. Retrieved 2009-09-18.

Balko, Radley (February 19, 2009). “Manufacturing Guilt? Experts say this exclusive video shows a dental examiner creating the bite marks that put a man on death row.” Reason Magazine. http://reason.com/news/show/131527.html. Retrieved 2009-09-18.

Yet for years, despite Hayne’s absurd claims — and the unjust results they produced — he held onto his position. He even had defenders, status quo stalwarts who did anything they could to prop him up, until he was finally removed.

There’s the proof and demonstration of human nature — that some are corrupt and selfish, and will exercise power unjustly so long as they have a place from which to do so. They’ll say anything, do anything, merely to hold onto a position, title, or role. It’s not truth that inspires them, but prominence — as long as they have a chair at the table, they’re satisfied.

There’s great power in this situational amorality — without anything more than their selfish desires, they’ll dissemble, distort, and deceive so much as they need.

Hayne’s intelligent, but his career is one of degradation, of himself and others Even an ape would care better for its kind than Hayne cared for many others of his own kind.

If Hayne lasted so long, through his unremitting lies, then what finally did him in?

Someone like Balko, and others who publicized Hayne’s misconduct, eventually won the day. For if Hayne seemed the immovable object, Balko was — truly — the irresistible force. What Hayne had in selfishness, Balko exceeded in tenacity and patience. Along the way, Hayne probably seemed likely to prevail, until he was finally undone.

Politics is a long, ongoing thing. The selfishly situational — vile pigs like Hayne who will grab anything they can get — misunderstand the dynamic and transformational nature of America.

Hayne had the status quo, so to speak, but it wasn’t enough to resist a patient — very patient — doggedness for the truth.

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism: Indiana prosecutor resigns over Walker email

It’s hard to overestimate the outrageousness of this prosecutor’s actions:

An Indiana deputy prosecutor and Republican activist resigned Thursday after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism uncovered an email in which he suggested faking an attack on Gov. Scott Walker to discredit union protesters.

Carlos F. Lam submitted his resignation shortly before the Center published a story quoting his Feb. 19 email, which praised Walker for standing up to unions but went on to say that the chaos in Wisconsin presented “a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation.”

“If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions,” the email said.

“Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest. Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.”

At 5 a.m. Thursday, expecting the story to come out that day, Lam called Cooper and told him he had been up all night thinking about it.

“He wanted to come clean, I guess, and said he is the one who sent that email,” Cooper said.

He came into the office and gave his resignation verbally, Cooper told the Daily Journal in Franklin, Ind. The resignation was announced after the Center’s initial story was published.

Predictably, but wrongly, this officer of the court lied about his conduct when first confronted:

Email headers with detailed IP addresses suggested that the message was sent from Indianapolis.

Lam, an Indianapolis resident, at first told the Center he never wrote it.

Reached Tuesday by phone at the number listed on the email, Lam confirmed his email address matched the Hotmail address appearing on the Walker email, but said he had never written to Walker.

“I am flabbergasted and would never advocate for something like this, and would like everyone to be sure that that’s just not me,” he said, after being read the email.

Via Indiana prosecutor resigns over Walker email | WisconsinWatch.org.

Bell Officials’ E-Mails: We Act Like Pigs – CBS News

Readers may recall the story of excessive municipal compensation of officials in Bell, California, an impoverished town where officials helped themselves to huge salaries. See, Excessive Public Compensation in Bell, California (Lessons for the Rest of America) and Update: Excessive Public Compensation in Bell, California (Lessons for the Rest of America)

It’s even worse than first reported:

…two top officials in the scandal-ridden California city of Bell illegally paid themselves hugely inflated salaries and created a paper trail to hide their actions while joking that they were acting like pigs, according to a document filed in court Monday by the district attorney’s office….

The two [officials] also joke by e-mail of enriching themselves at the expense of Bell, a modest, working-class suburb of Los Angeles where one in six people live in poverty.

“I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell’s money,” [former Police Chief Randy] Adams writes at one point, according to the memo.

“LOL . well you can take your share of the pie . just like us,” Spaccia allegedly replies. She goes on to say that one of Rizzo’s favorite sayings is that pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered.

“So as long as we’re not hogs . all is well,” she is quoted in the document.

And yet – and yet – to the community they called themselves public servants.

Via Bell Officials’ E-Mails: We Act Like Pigs – CBS News.