The ongoing ethics probe of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) time as Milwuakee County Executive all stems from a uniquely modern-day source — blog commenting.
For his part, Walker has not commented publicly on the latest developments, the Associated Press reports — he was out of the state on Thursday, campaigning for Republicans in Kentucky, and his office has declined to comment.
The trouble all began in 2010, when Walker was a candidate for governor. Darlene Wink, his constituent services coordinator in the county, resigned after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that she had been using state time to post comments on the paper’s articles, promoting Walker and criticizing his opponents in the gubernatorial race.
For example, one comment criticized Walker’s opponent in the Republican primary, former Congressman Mark Neumann: “Conservatives need to listen to what Neumann is really saying - the true conservative in the race for Governor is Walker.” Wink posted her comments under the handle “RPMCVP” — a reference to her dual position as vice chairwoman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party.
Since her resignation, the investigation has continued very much under the radar. An additional part of the murkiness of the situation is that the investigation is what is known in Wisconsin as a “John Doe” investigation — a secret proceeding in which witnesses can be subpoenaed to testify under oath, but are forbidden from talking publicly about the case.
That layer of secrecy has led to much speculation and denials in the press. For example, Walker aide Tom Nardelli, who back in Milwaukee County had been Walker’s chief of staff for three years, suddenly quit his job in late August at the state Division of Environmental and Regulatory Services. However, Nardelli denied it having any connection to the John Doe investigation, and said that he was quitting because it was unfair to have just taken a job he planned to resign from soon anyway.
The investigation may have taken another turn on Wednesday, when the FBI raided the Madison home of Cynthia A. Archer, who had worked for Walker in the county government and has worked in state government since his election.
However, Archer is also denying that this is connected to the wider investigation. “I don’t really know anything about the John Doe investigation,” she told the local CBS affiliate in Madison.
“I can tell you that I’ve been a public servant my whole life. I have a very good sense of what’s appropriate and inappropriate,” Archer also added. “To my knowledge I never engaged in any inappropriate activities or behavior at work. I didn’t do blogging or any of that kind of thing, so I’m confident I have nothing to hide.”
Chris Wiesmueller, the attorney for the original blog-commenter Darlene Wink, also questioned the idea that Archer was connected to that original story. “I’m really in the dark in how we get from Darlene to Cynthia Archer,” Wiesmueller told the Associated Press.
The Journal Sentinel also reports on a curious situation regarding Archer’s current employment status with the state — she transferred from one job to another, and then went on sick leave just as she was set to start the new one:
Archer, 52, until recently was deputy administration secretary to the Republican governor. She now holds a different state job but is on paid sick leave, records show.
Her sick leave started Aug. 22 - the first day she was to have been on the job as legislative liaison in the Department of Children and Families. Originally, she was to return this coming Monday, but her medical leave has been extended.
Archer is currently on paid sick leave, using 344 hours of banked sick leave accumulated in large part from her previous time in state government from 1987-2003 — a perk that is allowed for employees who leave state government, but later return as appointees to “career executive position
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[Ed Note: This post has been corrected from an earlier version that misstated the raid on Archer’s home as having taken place on Thursday. It took place on Wednesday.]