Records Show Few People Actually Complained About Waukesha School Board Member’s Participation in Political Ad

MacIver News Service | December 29, 2011

[Waukesha, Wisc…] Despite the media attention it received, less than two dozen people contacted Waukesha School Board to complain about a member’s appearance in a political ad, the MacIver News Service has learned

Only 22 people contacted the Waukesha School Board and District about a board member’s appearance in a Governor Walker ad, and many of them were not Waukesha residents according to information gleaned from an open records request filed by the MacIver News Service.

The ad featured a woman named “Karin,” who was identified as a “School Board Member.” She talked about how changes to collective bargaining helped her district balance its budget.

Gov. Walker Television Commercial

Critics later discovered the person in the ad was Karin Rajnicek, a member of the Waukesha School Board. Some of her fellow board members publicly revealed their displeasure with Rajnicek’s participation in the Walker campaign.

On November 29, the school board’s policy committee discussed the ad. The committee consists of Rajnicek and her fellow board members Ellen Langill, and Barbara Brzenk.

Langill demanded a public apology from Rajnicek for breaking a Waukesha School Board policy (Number 8300) that states board members may not represent the school board without permission. Rajnicek did not apologize.

At the time of that meeting, the district had received ten to 12 complaints.  (Two complaints did not include any identifying information or date). Only four were from Waukesha residents, and three of them were former teachers or education professionals. One of the complaints was from a lawyer in San Francisco.

“You’re a joke.  Do you feel better now that you got paid OFF a hefty, hefty sum to appear in a bogus, misinformation campaign ad for a sociopath, totally irresponsible, environmentally-decimating governor who’s about to be recalled?”  Dana Hanaman, the San Francisco attorney wrote. “Soon YOU won’t have any clean water to drink or air to breathe, and your children WILL be dumber than rocks and without any jobs. BEWARE. Just remember…what comes around, goes around.”

Rajnicek notes she was not compensated to appear in the commercial.

A person named Jay Mielke wrote, “You are a WALKER TOOL.”

Patty Barrett, a Waukesha resident, wrote “as a newly elected board member, I believe you had no business presenting yourself as such an expert on the financial situation of our district.”

Eileen Potts Dawson, from Madison, wrote, “It feels like a betrayal for your board to remain silent if there are some of you who know that what she states in the ad does not reflect what has happened.”

“School board members are suppose to be impartial and work for the school district,” Amy Bedessem, from Pardeeville, wrote the superintendent’s office. “How have the cuts helped your school? Why is she still on this board? Her ad is misleading and is creating a bad name for Waukesha Schools. Please do something about this woman.”

In an interview with the MacIver News Service, Rajnicek noted that nowhere in the ad was she identified as speaking for the district and that in all subsequent media releases from the Walker campaign, it was to be made clear that she was offering her personal opinion only.

After the November 29 meeting and the subsequent media attention it received, the District only received emails from another ten people about the ad and seven of them supported Rajnicek. Six of the emails were from Waukesha residents; of those, four supported Rajnicek and two criticized her.

Robert Kohl, Waukesha resident, wrote “As a citizen and a taxpayer of Waukesha school district, I will not tolerate the constant drumbeat of harassment that seems to greet anyone who supports Gov. Walker.”

Chad Vendette, Waukesha resident, wrote “They may think you do not speak for them, but I can assure you Ms. Rajnicek, you DO speak for us, the Taxpayers of Waukesha County.”

Kurt Burie, another Waukesha resident, wrote “Based on your attempt to admonish Mrs. Rajnicek for her support of Gov. Walker, I will assume that you are against the collective bargaining reforms so I will not be voting for you in the next election.”

Of all the 22 people who contacted the district about the ad ,only ten were from Waukesha. Fifteen of the letters were critical of Rajnicek, seven of those were from teachers/educators.

In November the Waukesha Patch reported “Langill and Brzenk said after the meeting that they, along with other board members, have received calls, letters and emails about Rajnicek’s appearance in the video.”

Langill did not produce any evidence that she was contacted by anyone about the ad, in spite of the legal implications of the open records request. That may not be surprising because, unlike most of her fellow board members, her email address is not listed on the district’s website.  She did not return a phone call from the MNS seeking to clarify her comments.

We will update this story as events warrant.

The transcript of the ad:

Karin, School Board Member:  We were worried when the state budget was going to mean less money for our school district, and we have 25 schools.  But Governor Walker gave us options that reduced our biggest costs so that we could put more money back into our classrooms.”

Gov. Walker:  “I’m committed to working together to create more jobs, to improve our schools, and to protect our seniors.  You know, Wisconsin’s best days are yet to come.  It won’t happen overnight, but we are on our way.”