As I reflect on my time in the Scott Walker administration as secretary of Corrections and administrator of the Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation, I realize I learned many things about myself — and those who currently govern Wisconsin.
1) If the law prohibits favors for friends, simply bypass the law.
2) The state’s criminal investigative agency should never be subject to political bias if it is to have any credibility.
3) You cannot speak truth to power when power has no use for truth.
There were many examples during my tenure of unethical behavior by Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel, but the one that hit home for me most was in 2016 when Schimel bypassed a law and disregarded the Legislature’s intent. Why? He wanted to give his friend, campaign driver and transition director my civil service job.
I was administrator of the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation, by law a classified civil service position. This position leads Wisconsin’s only criminal investigative agency with statewide jurisdiction. The Legislature's intent was that a partisan-elected attorney general would not be able to change the head of the agency that may be investigating politicians or politically sensitive cases if they didn’t like the direction of an investigation. And it would avoid the potentially more troubling scenario of DCI not initiating an investigation because of political bias.
The Department of Justice adhered to the Legislature's intent for decades. The DOJ’s own statements would lead citizens to believe this was in fact happening.
DOJ budget requests for 2013-2015 and 2015-2017: “DCI is headed by the Administrator. The Administrator is a civil service, classified sworn law enforcement position who is appointed by the Attorney General. As a civil service appointment, the position term is indefinite and not an 'at will' appointment.”
Unfortunately, Schimel decided his friend should head the Division of Criminal Investigation, circumventing the law and transforming the long-established nonpartisan position into a political appointee subject to the AG's influence. This should concern all Wisconsin citizens and legislators.
Schimel transferred me out of my statutorily protected position as DCI administrator when I attempted to return after my term as Department of Corrections secretary. Schimel’s claims that I was being placed on leave “pending the outcome of the Lincoln Hills investigation” were fabrications. Deputy Attorney General Paul Connell advised me while I was still DOC secretary that I would be put back in my DCI position for one day to ostensibly comply with restoration laws and then immediately be transferred to a non-civil-service position.
After disregarding the law and moving me aside, Schimel forced out the sitting DCI administrator who had filled the position while I was Corrections secretary — he wanted a "different management style” in the position. There was no just cause, due process or concern for the law in either forced move. Schimel simply took a classified civil service position and created a new political appointment, using DOJ attorneys to argue his position at taxpayer expense. All to reward his friend, campaign driver and transition director with a classified civil service position — my position, earned through the classified civil service selection process.
Schimel and his boss Scott Walker embody the reasons public sector employees feared Act 10 and unethical politicians who would manipulate the civil service system.
Hopefully, the Wisconsin Legislature will consider what Schimel has done to the once-respected Division of Criminal Investigation and put laws in place that cannot be so easily evaded by an elected attorney general with no respect for the rule of law.
Ed Wall worked in the Wisconsin Department of Justice under AG J.B. Van Hollen in the Jim Doyle administration and under AG Brad Schimel in the Scott Walker administration, beginning in 1999. He served on loan from DOJ's Division of Criminal Investigation at the governor's request as secretary of the Department of Corrections from October 2012 through February 2015. He left DOJ in April 2016 and is now president and CEO of a cybersecurity firm in Nashua, N.H.
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