March 3, 2011- Was Scott Walker asleep at the wheel as chief executive of Milwaukee County when it came to pension reform?
According to a 2007 article in Milwaukee Magazine, the answer is an emphatic yes: "Walker always seems to drag his feet when it comes to cleaning up the county's pension system."
Non-Wisconsin readers should know that Walker was elected in the backlash reaction to a pension scandal in the county in 2002, and has been riding the pension reform issue ever since. But talking pension reform and implementing it in a timely manner are two different things – and Walker is a very good talker.
At the heart of the huge pension budgetary increase that propelled Walker into county office as a reformer was a consulting firm, Mercer Human Resources. Of course, it would be contrary to Walker's privatization ideology to blame a "free market" firm for any extra costs to the taxpayers, so this assessment from Milwaukee Magazine portends some ominous developments for the people of Wisconsin:
It was nearly three years after he was elected that he finally got around to planning a legal suit against the actuaries at Mercer Human Resources Consulting for the advice they gave officials who passed the pension plan. Compounding this delay, Walker continued to use Mercer as fiscal adviser, which has left the county in the position of arguing that an expert it kept rehiring is guilty of flagrant malpractice.
But how he handled the pension debacle that got him into office gets even more worrisome for taxpayers in the Badger State:
He declined to pursue legal action against the Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren law firm for the advice it gave county officials on the pension plan. The head of the firm, back when Walker made this decision, was then state Republican chair Rick Graber, who had donated campaign money to Walker.
And what of Walker's "outraged concern" about the abuse of pensions:
He hired outside counsel, attorney Charles Stevens, to advise the county on its legal options, and to draft waiver forms for non-union employees to file a waiver of the extra pension benefits. Stevens put in a grand total of 25 hours work on an issue with huge financial implications, yet of apparently little interest for Walker.
There you have it. Walker, a man in a hurry to get elected, but whose word to taxpayers is about as credible as Nixon saying, "I am not a crook." Not that Walker is a crook (as far as we know at this moment); he just leaves the taxpayers to pick up the costly tab for his ambition and ideological excess.