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News The Wire Tuesday, Feb 18 2014

Another Republican Governor Under Investigation

Feb 18, 2014

To: Interested Parties
From: Brad Woodhouse, President of American Bridge 21st Century
Date: February 18, 2014
Re: New Information on Scott Walker’s FIRST John Doe Investigation

Here we go again. A Republican governor under investigation. Again. New emails and documents released. Again. This time, it’s embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the FIRST John Doe investigation into his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive.

On Wednesday, new documents resulting from the John Doe investigation into Walker’s Milwaukee County Executive administration will be released. That investigation resulted in the convictions of six individuals with close ties to Walker, including two of his former deputy chiefs of staff.

The investigation began when $11,000 in funds for a veterans’ charity supervised by the administration went missing. As the investigation continued, prosecutors stumbled upon additional staff misdeeds. Using a “secret email system” in his official office, Walker’s government staff conducted campaign work and fundraised for him while on taxpayer time. The investigation also brought to light a campaign finance reimbursement scheme and even a lurid attempt by a Walker ally to sexually solicit a seventeen-year-old.

The investigation closed with no criminal charges filed against Walker, yet he still paid thousands in legal defense fees related to the investigation. Now, mere months after the first three-year long investigation was closed, there is a second John Doe investigation related to spending and coordination of outside groups in Walker’s 2011 recall election.

The emails being released tomorrow are those of Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker Deputy Chief of Staff who pled guilty to misconduct for fundraising and campaigning for Walker while working on taxpayer time. The emails are from her private account, which she accessed using the so-called “secret email system.”

While Walker has claimed he was unaware of his staff’s corrupt actions, countless questions remain. Here are a few things to look for in the new emails tomorrow:

1. How much involvement did Walker have in the mixing of county government and campaign business by his staff?

2. Do emails with his staff support Walker’s claims that he was unaware of their corrupt and illegal actions?

3. Did Walker himself use the “secret email network”? Did he ever use it to direct his staff to conduct campaign business on government time?

4. Was Walker involved in his campaign’s attempt to delay responding to public information requests related to the O’Donnell Park tragedy (where his official and campaign staffs coordinated on his public response)?

5. We already know Walker discussed a real estate deal with campaign advisor John Hiller that Hiller stood to profit from. Did Walker have similar contact with other parties who may have stood to benefit from state or county actions?

To learn more about the first John Doe investigation into Scott Walker’s tenure as Milwaukee County Executive, continue reading below.


John Doe Investigation Opened As A Result Of Lost Veterans Money – Spiraled As Additional Wrong Doing Found

John Doe Investigations Are A Unique Legal Proceeding Used In Wisconsin  –  They Allow Prosecutors To Subpoena Witnesses To Establish If A Crime Has Been Committed, And If So, By Whom. According to the law firm Hurley Burlish and Stanton, “The John Doe proceeding is an institution sanctioned by long usage since Wisconsin’s territorial days. The provisions of Wis. Stat. section 968.26 currently define the scope of a John Doe proceeding in Wisconsin, which is intended as an independent, investigatory tool to ascertain whether a crime has been committed and if so, by whom. The goal is to allow the judge to determine whether it appears probable from the testimony given that a crime has been committed, and whether to file a complaint. But the proceedings are also designed to protect innocent citizens from the fallout of frivolous prosecutions. […]Unlike normal criminal proceedings, which can be initiated if there is probable cause to believe a person has violated the law, John Doe proceedings help law enforcement develop the evidence necessary to establish the very existence of probable cause. The John Doe proceeding gives law enforcement powers not otherwise available to them. For example, it gives law enforcement the power to subpoena witnesses, to take testimony under oath, to offer immunity from prosecution, and to compel the testimony of reluctant witnesses.” [Hurley Burlish and Stanton, Viewed 2/17/14]

The Initial Inquiry That Led To The Walker John Doe Investigation Began When Walker’s County Chief Of Staff Reported An $11,000 Shortfall In A Veteran’s Fund Called “Operation Freedom.” According to the Journal Sentinel “Walker has said it was his concern about missing funds that led to the John Doe investigation, which was expanded several times. Tom Nardelli, then Walker’s county chief of staff, told prosecutors in 2009 about a shortfall of some $11,000 in Operation Freedom money during the period that Kavanaugh was overseeing those donations.”[Journal Sentinel, 11/29/12]

  • Milwaukee County Prosecutors Opened The John Doe Criminal Investigation After Being Stonewalled By Walker’s County Executive Administration According to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “Milwaukee County prosecutors opened the secret John Doe criminal investigation more than two years ago after being stonewalled by Gov. Scott Walker’s office when he was county executive, according to a newly released record.” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 5/31/12]
  • Prosecutors Said Walker’s Administration Was “Unwilling Or Unable” To Turn Over Records And Information Needed In The Investigation According to Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “On May 5, 2010, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf filed a petition with court officials asking if his office could initiate a secret investigation into what happened with $11,000 in donations intended for Operation Freedom, an annual event honoring veterans. By making it a secret John Doe investigation, Landgraf wrote that prosecutors might get better cooperation from Walker’s office, which had been ‘unwilling or unable’ to turn over records and information needed in the investigation. He said he would need to subpoena county records and officials.” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 5/31/12]

The John Doe Spiraled To Include Almost Everyone Who Worked For Walker As Additional Wrongdoing Was Uncovered – Resulted In Several Arrests And Convictions. According to Salon, “So what is the ‘John Doe’ investigation? The term does not apply to a single anonymous person, in this case, but rather it refers to a secret evidence-gathering investigation, much like a grand jury. The investigation has been led by a DA and judge in Milwaukee, who has the authority to compel testimony, issue warrants and carry other law enforcement actions. The probe reportedly started with a single staffer who had worked for Walker when he was Milwaukee’s county executive, but it has since grown much larger, touching almost everyone who has worked for Walker, and even the governor himself, and producing several arrests and convictions.” [Salon, 6/1/12]

John Doe Investigation Focused On Three Issues: Possible Theft Of Funds Set Aside For Veterans Events, Illegal Political Contributions To Walker’s Campaign Fund, And Political Activity By Walkers Aids While On Taxpayer Time According to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Nettesheim said the investigation focused on three issues. He said prosecutors wanted to know if employees of the Wisconsin Southern Railway and its president and owner William Gardner had made illegal contributions to Walker’s campaign fund and others. They also were focused on political activity by Walker aides while on the clock for taxpayers and suspected theft of funds set aside for veterans’ events.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/3/13]

Investigation Resulted In Convictions Of Six Staffers Connected To Walker And Many Remaining Questions

Veterans Charity Embezzlement

Operation Freedom Was A Non-Profit Charitable Enterprise That Had Been Operating Out Of The Milwaukee County Executive’s Office; Main Activities Were An Annual Veterans Picnic At The Milwaukee County Zoo And A Christmas Party For The Families Of Veterans  According to Criminal complaint against Kevin Kavanaugh, “Operation Freedom is a non-profit charitable enterprise that had been operating out of the Milwaukee County Executive’s Office. Darlene Wink managed Operation Freedom. Operation Freedom’s main activities were an annual veterans picnic at the Milwaukee County Zoo on July Fourth weekend and an annual Christmas party for the families of military service members.” [Criminal Complaint against Kevin Kavanaugh, accessed 2/18/14]

  • October 2009: Walker Ordered That American Legion Post No. 23 Cede Control Of Operation Freedom’s Books; Ordered Control Of The Finances To Be Transferred To A Group Run By Aide Tim Russell  According to Journal Sentinel “Transferring control of funds for an annual veterans event – from an American Legion Post to an organization run by then-County Executive Scott Walker’s aide Tim Russell – was ordered by Walker in October 2009, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday against Russell.   Walker made the move after the Alonzo Cudworth American Legion Post No. 23 had performed what prosecutors now say was ‘exemplary’ work in managing the books of Operation Freedom, a recurring event honoring veterans held at the Milwaukee County Zoo.” [Journal Sentinel, 1/6/12]

Embezzlement From Operation Freedom

November 2012: Timothy D Russell Pled Guilty To Embezzling Over $21,000 From Veterans Nonprofit According to The Journal Sentinel, “Timothy D. Russell, a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzling more than $21,000 from a nonprofit group that raised money for veterans. Prosecutors charged Russell, 49, in January with stealing from a nonprofit that Walker assigned him to lead to raise funds for veterans and the annual Operation Freedom picnic the governor hosted while he was Milwaukee County executive.” [Journal Sentinel, 11/29/12]

January 2012: Kevin Kavanaugh Was Charged With Five Felonies For Theft And Fraudulent Writings By A Corporate Officer; Prosecutors Said He Stole More Than $42,000 In Donations Intended To Families Of US Service Members Killed Or Wounded In Iraq. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Kavanaugh, 61, of Cudahy, is charged with five felonies for theft and fraudulent writings by a corporate officer. He was the treasurer of the Milwaukee Purple Heart chapter at the time of the dispute over the $11,000 for Operation Freedom. Prosecutors say he stole more than $42,000 in donations intended to families of U.S. service members killed or wounded in Iraq.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/5/12]

Campaigning On County Time

Two Staffers In Walker’s County Executive Administration Were Charged With Illegally Doing Extensive Political Work While Being Paid By Taxpayers To Do County Jobs According to The Journal Sentinel, “Two staffers who worked directly for Gov. Scott Walker while he was county executive were charged Thursday with illegally doing extensive political work while being paid by taxpayers to do county jobs. One of the two, Darlene Wink, cut a deal with prosecutors under which she agreed to provide information in a related investigation about the destruction of digital evidence and to aid in further prosecutions. This is the first indication that the multifaceted John Doe investigation may be pursuing charges of evidence tampering.” [Journal Sentinel, 1/26/12]

  • Rindfleisch Sent More 1,380 Fundraising Emails During Work Hours According to The Journal Sentinel, “During work hours between February 2010 and early July 2010, it says, Rindfleisch sent more than 300 emails to Davis and 1,380 fundraising emails. The John Doe also turned up more than 1,000 emails between Rindfleisch and top staffers on Walker’s 2010 campaign during work hours over the same period.” [Journal Sentinel, 1/26/12]
  • While Doing Political Work On Taxpayer Time, Walker Aid Darlene Wink Said To A Colleague: “I Just Am Afraid Of Going To Jail” According to the Journal Sentinel, “Wink worked on campaign fundraisers, phone banks, Reagan Day dinners and Milwaukee County Republican Party matters while working in Walker’s office. In one 2009 chat with Timothy Russell, a longtime friend and fellow Walker aide, Wink asked how she could clear a document from her chat session. Russell told her it would disappear when she logged out. ‘I just am afraid of going to jail – ha! ha!’ Wink wrote in August 2009. Russell replied, ‘You wouldn’t, not for that.’” [Journal Sentinel, 1/26/12]

Secret Email System

Complaint: A “Secret Email System” Existed In County Exec’s Office; Was “Routinely Used By Selected Insiders Within The Walker Administration” For County Business As Well As Unofficial Purposes Such As Campaigning According to the Journal Sentinel, “The complaint reveals a ‘secret email system’ that was ‘routinely used by selected insiders within the Walker administration’ for county business as well as unofficial purposes such as campaigning.” [Journal Sentinel, 1/26/12]

  • Investigators Found Boxes For Two Wireless Routers In Walker’s County Executive Office; Packing Labels With The Boxes Had Deputy Chief Of Staff Tim Russell’s Name On Them According to The Huffington Post ” Investigators found boxes for two wireless routers in an armoire in Walker’s County Executive office. Packaging labels found with the boxes bore the name ‘Timothy Russell.’  The allegation is that Russell (who was Deputy Chief of Staff before becoming Housing Director) set up an unofficial networking system so that staffers could conduct campaign business on their personal laptops while their salary was being paid by the taxpayers. The secret email system was available for use by certain staff for both official and unofficial business.” [The Huffington Post, 1/30/12]

Fraudulent Donations

William Gardner, President And Chief Executive Officer Of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Was Sentenced To Two Years Of Probation For Violating State Campaign Finance Laws According to the Journal Sentinel, “William Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. and a major donor to Gov. Scott Walker, was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation for violating state campaign finance laws. Washington County Circuit Judge James Pouros also sentenced Gardner to 100 hours of community service at Tenor High School, a charter school in Milwaukee.” [Journal Sentinel, 7/7/11]

  • Complaint:  Gardner Told Several Employees In 2009 And 2010 To Donate Money To Walker And File Expense Reports With The Railroad To Cover The Donations According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “According to the 12-page criminal complaint, Gardner told several employees in 2009 and 2010 to donate money to Walker and file expense reports with the railroad to cover the donations. He told them not to send their checks until they received the money from the railroad. ” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/11/11]
  • Gardner’s Railroad Company Relied On Millions In Loans And Grants From The State Of Wisconsin To Operate According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ” Gardner’s small railroad company relies on millions of dollars in grants and loans from the state to operate. ” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/12/11]

Attempt To Seduce A Minor

January 2012: Brian Pierick Was Charged With Two Felony Counts For Child Enticement. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Pierick, 48, was charged with two felony counts for child enticement. He is an office operations assistant for education for homeless youth at DPI dealing with education for homeless children and youth, according to the agency’s website.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/5/12]

  • Pierick Was Allegedly Acting With A Coconspirator In Attempting To Lure A 17-Year-Old Into Timothy Russell’s Van For A Sexual Encounter. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Pierick is named in the complaint as the domestic and business partner of Timothy Russell, the former Walker aide. And while Russell is not charged in the case, the complaint states Pierick was acting with a coconspirator in attempting to lure the 17-year-old into Russell’s van for a sexual encounter. Other evidence showed the men used the screen name ‘Walker04’ to procure online porn involving young boys.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/6/12]

Pierick Was Listed As The Registrant For Walker’s Campaign Website According to Journal Sentinel “On Wednesday, Walker’s campaign removed Russell as the official registrant for his current campaign website. Before that, Pierick had been listed as the campaign website registrant. ‘The campaign has been working for many months to transfer ownership of the domain to our provider of Web services,’ said Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews.” [Journal Sentinel, 1/6/12]

John Hiller Real Estate Questions

The John Doe Investigation Uncovered A Private Email Exchange Between Walker And His Campaign Adviser John Hiller Over A Potential County Real Estate Contract In Which Hiller Had A Financial Stake As A Deal Maker. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “After more than two years of raids, subpoenas and closed-door courtroom testimony, the John Doe investigation into activities during Gov. Scott Walker’s time as Milwaukee County executive is now faced with this: Determining the significance of a private email exchange in the spring of 2010 between Walker and his longtime campaign adviser John Hiller over a potential county real estate contract in which Hiller had a financial stake as deal maker. Those familiar with the exchange — the emails were among the documents seized by authorities — say it has to do with the county’s efforts to find private or public office space for its Department on Aging. Milwaukee County prosecutors have been investigating whether there was an attempt at bid-rigging in that case.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/29/12]

Campaign Coordination On O’Donnell Park Tragedy

Walker Worked Simultaneously With His Campaign Staff And County Aides In Coordinating Responses About The 2010 O’Donnell Park Tragedy. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Gov. Scott Walker worked simultaneously with his campaign staff and county aides in coordinating responses to media inquiries, open records requests and news stories about the 2010 O’Donnell Park tragedy, according to newly released emails. The records show that Walker was integrally involved in the efforts to challenge any negative publicity after a concrete panel fell from the Milwaukee County-owned O’Donnell parking structure, killing a 15-year-old boy on June 24, 2010, on his way to Summerfest. The incident occurred in the middle of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/30/13]

  • Teenage Boy Was Killed When A Concrete Slab Fell From A Parking Garage At O’Donnell Park. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Eric Wosinski and Jared Kellner, best friends since kindergarten, were looking forward to attending Summerfest’s opening night when they walked out of a downtown parking garage. The boys, both 15, were a few steps behind Eric’s parents Thursday afternoon when a 13 1/2 -ton concrete slab fell at least seven feet from the garage’s facade, killing Jared and injuring Eric and his mother, Amy Wosinski. […]Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker said the garage underneath O’Donnell Park would remain closed until engineers determine it is safe. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said his office is helping with the investigation.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/25/10]
  • O’Donnell Records Were Seized As A Part Of The John Doe Investigation. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Milwaukee County Judge Christopher Foley released the records as part of a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family. The emails had been under seal because Milwaukee prosecutors seized them as part of a long-running John Doe investigation into Walker’s aides and associates.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/31/13]

No Charges Were Filed Against Walker But He Was Forced To Establish A Legal Defense Fund, Indicating He Was The Target Of A Criminal Investigation

March 2013: John Doe Investigation Ended Without Any Charges Against Walker According to The Chippewa Herald, “A criminal investigation that ensnared six former aides and associates of Gov. Scott Walker has ended, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday. District Attorney John Chisholm said the so-called John Doe probe  — which was launched nearly three years ago — failed to uncover evidence of additional wrongdoing beyond the six people charged, including three former Milwaukee County employees who worked for Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive.” [The Chippewa Herald, 3/1/13]

Walker Set Up A Legal Defense Fund To Pay Expenses Incurred As A Result Of The John Doe Investigation According to the Journal Sentinel, “Gov. Scott Walker announced Friday that he has set up a legal- defense fund to help pay expenses incurred as a result of the John Doe investigation of activities during his time as county executive.” [Journal Sentinel, 3/10/12]

  • Accountability Board Memo: “Wisconsin Statutes Permit A State Government Official Who Is Being Investigated For Or Charged With A Violation Of Campaign Finance Laws Or Prohibited Election Practices To Establish A Legal Defense Fund”  According to a memo published by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, “Wisconsin Statutes permit a state government official who is being investigated for or charged with a violation of campaign finance laws [chapter 11, Wisconsin Statutes] or prohibited election practices [chapter 12, Wisconsin Statutes] to establish a “legal defense fund” for expenditures supporting or defending the candidate while that person is being investigated for, or charged with, or convicted of a violation of those chapters” [Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Memo, accessed 2/18/14]
  • Expert: “If You Create A Legal-Defense Fund, You Are Either Being Investigated, Being Charged With Or Have Been Convicted Of A Criminal Violation” According to Journal Sentinel, “Several election lawyers said creation of the defense fund serves as a tacit acknowledgment that Walker is under investigation for election law violations. ‘If you create a legal-defense fund, you are either being investigated, being charged with or have been convicted of a criminal violation of Chapter 11 or Chapter 12,’ said retired state election lawyer George Dunst, referring to the statutes dealing with campaign finance and election fraud.” [Journal Sentinel, 3/10/12]
  • Tim Russell Attorney: “The Only Way You Can Set That Up Is If You Are Under Investigation Or Being Prosecuted,” According to Journal Sentinel, “Michael Maistelman, an election lawyer who is representing former Walker aide Tim Russell in the John Doe investigation, said people could draw conclusions from Walker’s decision to create a defense fund. ‘The only way you can set that up is if you are under investigation or being prosecuted,’ Maistelman said. ‘One can only draw the conclusion that either one of those two things is happening.’” [Journal Sentinel, 3/10/12]

A Second John Doe Investigation Is Underway Related To Walker’s Recall Election Financing

August 2012: Milwaukee County Prosecutors Opened A New Secret John Doe Investigation Into Recall Election; Target Of Secret Investigation Is “Almost Certainly” Walker’s Recall Campaign “According to the Journal Sentinel, “In August 2012, Milwaukee County prosecutors filed a petition seeking to launch the John Doe investigation into the recall races prompted by Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation to curb the power of state employee unions. From the outset, the probe focused on possible ‘illegal campaign coordination between (name redacted), a campaign committee, and certain special interest groups,’ according to a filing signed by the five district attorneys in the case. The campaign committee under the microscope? Almost certainly it’s the Friends of Scott Walker, the governor’s campaign committee. ‘Good guess,’ said one source familiar with the probe. ‘That’s it.’” [Journal Sentinel, 2/3/14]

Documents Being Released

February 2014: An Appeals Court Judge Ordered The Unsealing Of Thousands Of Emails Belonging To A Convicted Former Aide To Gov. Scott Walker, Kelly Rindfleisch. According to Journal Sentinel, “An Appeals Court judge ordered the unsealing Monday of thousands of emails belonging to a convicted former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, setting the stage for the emails and other records to be released next week.” [Journal Sentinel, 2/10/14]

  • Rindfleisch Was Hired In January 2010 As Walker’s Deputy Chief Of Staff  According to HTR News, “Rindfleisch was hired in January 2010 as Walker’s deputy chief of staff, but she also did campaign work on county time for Brett Davis, who was running as a Republican for lieutenant governor.” [HTR News, 2/10/14]
  • Records Include Emails From Rindfleisch’s Personal Email Account… Emails From Walker And Top Aids Are Likely To Be Included In The Documents According to the Journal Sentinel, “The records in question include emails from Rindfleisch’s personal computer and private email account, affidavits supporting John Doe search warrants, and a transcript of a secret hearing on search warrants issued the day before Walker was elected governor in 2010. Likely included in the emails are messages exchanged with Walker or his top political aides as he ran his 2010 campaign for governor.” [Journal Sentinel, 2/10/14]
  • Rindfleisch Emails Showed Her Fundraising For Republican Candidates While Working On The County Time  [Kelly Rindfleisch Criminal Complaint, accessed 2/18/14]

Published: Feb 18, 2014

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