Politically Connected Find Soft Landings at PSC

MacIver News Service | January 6, 2011

[Madison, Wisc…] Just days before Scott Walker took over as governor, individuals politically-connected to the lame-duck Doyle Administration were able to secure new jobs in the state government, a practice the new governor had predicted, and had hoped to avoid.

In November, Walker sent a letter to Governor Doyle asking his predecessor to put a halt to such efforts.

“In the past, it has been common practice for political appointees to use this time to ‘bump down’ into permanent civil service positions,” Walker wrote in November. “I believe these appointees should be required to go through the same application process as any other civil servants and my Administration will review any new permanent hires during the next two months so they can be considered for termination during the probationary period.”

The MacIver News Service has learned that several Doyle appointees and allies have surfaced in state agency rosters in recent weeks including five just announced in new positions at the Public Service Commission.

Lee Sensenbrenner, Carrie Tempelton, Matt Pagel, Theresa Weidermann-Smith, and Chela O’Conner have all landed positions in the PSC.

According to an internal email distributed to PSC employees, Sensenbrenner, former spokesperson for Doyle and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, was hired by the PSC Commissioner’s office to be their director of public affairs.

That same email introduced four more politicos who have secured new positions.

Templeton was hired as the Assistant Administrator of Consumer Affairs. She had been an executive assistant in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Financial Institutions, but most recently was working as a senior policy adviser to the Governor.

Pagel had served as Chief of Staff for recently-defeated State Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), and has just been hired by the Commissioner’s office.

Weidermann-Smith, former PSC spokesperson, is now at the PSC Division of Administrative Services.

O’Conner was the Executive Assistant to PSC Commissioner Mark Meyer, whose term expires this year and is not expected to be reappointed to the Commission. O’Conner is now an Assistant Administrator in the Telecommunications Division.

Most of state government is currently subject to a hiring freeze. In November Walker said he would like to see that continue without any exemptions made for politically-connected individuals in need of a soft-landing as the result of the transfer of power at the Capitol.

“I see no reason to finalize any permanent civil service personnel during the final two months of an administration,” Walker wrote.

The MacIver News Service is filing requests with the PSC to determine how long the five recently-filled positions at the PSC had been vacant prior to being filled. We are also contacting other agencies to examine their post-election hires as we have received tips regarding other examples, on which we’ll report in future stories.

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