Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A great mess at state treasurer's office

So far, no one's coming out of this story looking particularly good.

Serious questions have been raised about goings on in the state treasurer's office since at least last year, when the Wisconsin State Journal reported on possible politically motivating hiring going on there. Positions in the office are supposed to be nonpartisan, civil service, merit-based jobs.

More recently, many have been calling into question State Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass's ability to properly run the office. The allegations involve improper staffing levels, grossly mismanaging unclaimed property requests, hiring her 20-year-old niece, and not bothering to detail travel expenses on her ethics reports.

Today, the WSJ again lays out yet more drama at the office, wherein Sass has fired her deputy because, as she now says, he did in fact politicize the hiring process at the office. This reverses the claims she'd made initially when the issue was raised. So why the change of heart? Why the sudden willingness to stand up for what's right and good and non-partisan in this world?

Well, something tells me the motives aren't entirely altruistic. I mean, Sass has been under serious pressure to whip her department into shape lest she be removed from office. Major problems have been outlined with how she's handled her job. Suddenly deciding to grow a conscience and throw a few people under the bus to save one's own skin isn't exactly a new phenomenon.

Why else would she wait until everyone who she claims was hired for political reasons had already left those jobs? And why defend the hires so rigorously in the first place, only to wait a year (until you yourself had come under fire) to speak up?

The whole thing smacks of self-serving politics, and not just on the part of Sass. After all, there's a good chance her claims of politicization and meddling on the part of governor's office have merit despite her potentially less-than-noble reasons for spilling the beans.

What it all comes down to is that we clearly need a serious investigation into Sass, her office, and the Doyle administration. If anyone has been trying to influence hires and/or hiring based on political affiliations, then they need to be reprimanded and held responsible. This kind of shit shouldn't fly at any level of government - federal, state, or otherwise.


Anonymous said...

I Agree totally.Ideological and politically based hiring have caused many many problems. just look at history for a few EPIC fails. when people start being hired for positions based on their "moral compass" or political affiliation, you begin to see problems with transparency and open government. look what happened with the U.S. attorney scandal. Biskupic did the Administrations dirty work, and was allowed to remain in his position. that's what you get when you start "playing favorites" when hiring. if you help get the peron a job, then you can ask a "favor" later, and it's incumbent upon the employee to comply. exchanging favors with a buddy is fine, but not when it impacts the lives of the people of your state, or it's economy.I applaud you Emily for being so rigorous in defending the ideals of our democracy. No matter who it is, you don't pull punches, and have a very common sense way of calling people out on their BS. Oh, and Little Red Wolf Is gonna Kick Ass This Weekend!

Anonymous said...

I believe the good people of Wisconsin deserve better. You are correct about self serving politics, but since moving to Dane County 3 years ago, much of Madison is self serving. Sass is no longer hiding under the Doyle umbrella, since his announcement not to seek re-election, agency heads, dept. leaders, elected or otherwise are open season and we should all be asking, what have you done for us?; instead of asking what have you done for yourself. Sometimes people wind up in positions of power beyond there level of competence. This is a classic case, but I believe there"ll will be a few more before April.

Palmer said...

Emily - I agree with your comments but chuckle to myself at your naivete of how state government works. Get a temp job at a state agency for a few months and you will learn more than you ever wanted to know.

Barring working at the state, keep your eyes peeled at the next gubernatorial election. If a Republican gets elected, watch what happens at the most politicized state agencies.

Emily said...

X - We're looking forward to kicking ass, thank you. :)

Anon - Part of holding these politicians responsible for their actions is voting them out of office.

Palmer - It's not naive to believe that this sort of shit has no place in government. It doesn't mean I don't know that it goes on all the time anyway.

Palmer said...

I wasn't implying that you're naive to think it has no place in government. What I got out of it was that you think that the WSJ caught the bad apple when this goes on all the time and that state government is heavily politicized. And this goes beyond just hiring folks who are loyal.

Emily said...

I'm glad the WSJ has been looking into this particular case. Does that mean there aren't other such cases that need to see the light of day? Of course not. This is one example, and I was talking about this one example. I'm not sure how you got the impression that I thought this was the only bad apple out there. But whatever, the important thing is that more of this sort of investigative journalism is needed, as are real consequences for those who flaunt the law, so that we can (hopefully) cut down on this sort of thing in the future.

We display the appropriate amount of outrage when stories of this sort are broken, but then very few of us seem to have the backbone and/or attention span to see that the responsible parties are really held accountable. That's my main complaint.

Palmer said...

Here's what you wrote:

"If anyone has been trying to influence hires and/or hiring based on political affiliations..."

This is exactly why I wrote my first comment. This is why I thought you naive. There is no "if" here. It happens. The secretaries of the agencies serve at the governor's pleasure so the politics starts at the very top.

Emily said...

Take the "if" like an "alleged." It's the journalist in me. I don't like to say that things are definitely so unless solid evidence exists and/or there's been a guilty verdict--and I try to stick with that on a case-by-case basis, regardless of if my gut is telling me that something is very likely true.

Shane said...

"We display the appropriate amount of outrage when stories of this sort are broken, but then very few of us seem to have the backbone and/or attention span to see that the responsible parties are really held accountable. That's my main complaint."

Your above quote says it all. Although i think the outrage is usually party specific. Repubs had no problem looking the other way when Bush did it and the dems did the same with Doyle. I just dont get how Sass has kept her job.(actually i do get it which is why its so frustrating)


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