Walkergate: emails of Scott Walker’s conniving staff are revealed in court

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Prosecutor Bruce Landgraf made a very strong case against Scott Walker’s former aide Rindfleisch, Monday. You can review Landgraf’s 78-page presentation below and I’ve pulled out a few of the more sordid details.

Landgraf makes clear that campaign staff, a media contractor, county staff, Scott Walker, and the GOP are all mixing it up with no regard for the walls, by law, they should have imposed between government and political operatives and their activities. To make his case, he’s shared emails that Walker’s team never thought would see the light of day.

We see how Walker’s team connived to shape news that would favor Walker and sully the image of his 2010 contender for the Wisconsin governor seat, Tom Barrett. By including these examples, Landgraf dredges up the stories Scott Walker would just as soon you forget. In fact, perhaps you’ve never heard of them. I remember discovering these tales online and feeling sure Walker couldn’t get the governor’s seat. Those were the days.

Landgraf starts out solidly establishing the basics: that Rindfleisch knew the rules and that she created thousands of emails for Brett Davis’ campaign on Milwaukee County time. Page 36 establishes that county staff and campaign staff are tossing themselves into one pot – doing a conference call at the county office. The people listed on that email who gathered to work together are:

Keith Gilkes, Friends of Scott Walker campaign manager.
Thomas Nardelli, Chief of Staff for Scott Walker’s Milwaukee County Executive Office
Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker’s then aide
Cynthia Archer, then an aide to Scott Walker in Milwaukee County. More recently a former deputy administration secretary to Scott Walker in Madison.
Fran McLaughlin, Milwaukee County spokeswoman 2007 – 2010. She was granted immunity in the John Doe investigation on May 31, 2012.
John Myhre, then deputy Milwaukee County spokesman.
Timothy Russell, then aide and the IT guy who set up a secret wireless network a short walk from Scott Walker’s old Milwaukee County desk. Russell has been charged with embezzling $21,699.85 from the HGPS or Heritage Guard Preservation Society, a fund for widows and children of deceased veterans. Russell’s been with Walker since he ran for county executive in 2002.
R.J. Johnson, a Scott Walker advisor.
Jill Bader, then Communications Director for Scott Walker. She gained national notoriety for retweeting a questionable tweet when President Obama visited Wisconsin

By the time we get to the CEX pages at 42, alarm bells will go off in your head if you know much of anything about Milwaukee County political history.

“BHD” at page 45 refers to Behavioral Health Division. BHD oversees the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex where critics say Walker’s efforts to cut costs, privatize, and shortchange staff opened up opportunities for abuse.

On page 47, Landgraf includes an email discussion on psychiatrist Karl Strelnick. I presume that “MJS” refers to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and that the group has been discussing what it is they can tell the paper about who is supervising Strelnick and other details. What’s very odd here is that the email makes clear that he’ll appeal charges and if he wins, he’ll practice again in “MI county”. I presume that means Milwaukee County.

Strelnick is a figure who probably shouldn’t be allowed within 100 feet of a mental health facility again. What kind of connection do they have with this guy?

Strelnick was suspended without pay in August of 2010. In 2006 one of Strelnick’s patients, Cindy Anczak, died from starvation complications at the same complex.
“Details of Anczak’s death come just days after a report by state inspectors that found 26 health and safety violations, more than twice the number found in the previous inspection three years ago.” In 1987 Strelnick admitted to having sex with 2 patients, over 100 times with 1 of them. More on him here.

What draws a line of responsibility between Scott Walker and the grave conditions at the complex: county lawyers withheld a 2008 consultant’s report on the Mental Health Complex from the county auditor and Walker defended that decision.

The individuals included on that email on Strelnick are:
Jill Bader
Frank McLaughlin
Scott Walker
Patrick Hogan
Tom Nardelli

Hogan is currently a policy assistant in Walker’s Madison office. At the time of the email, he was a “Personal Aide to Scott Walker” at “Friends of Scott Walker” per his LinkedIn.

The fact that Strelnick – perhaps the most easily identified bad actor in the institution – was allowed to persist as a caregiver at the M.C.M.H.Complex is a scandal. The online world was well aware of horrific conditions at Milwaukee County’s chief mental health institution when Walker was at the healm of Milwaukee County gov’t. The statewide voting public was not.

We also see in these documents that Rindfleisch has plans to extract government information for a story, but she needs to do it in a stealthy manner. It seems she’s set on trying to throw a journalist or journalists off of Walker’s trail.

She’s in communication with campaign operatives in the conversation.
On page 63 “This needs to be done covertly so it’s not tied to Scott, the county, or the campaign in any way.” is her message to Stephen Thompson. Rindfleisch refers to a message from M. Lisa which says “Freedom of Information Act – I would suggest more covert.” It’s clear from another email Landgraf has included that the conversation refers to an email from Rindfleisch to Keith Gilkes (the Friends of Scott Walker Campaign Manager) about “The contact for open records on Mendota and their failure to be in compliance”.

It becomes clear by the time we flip to page 64 that they’re worried about a reporter that threatens to take down somebody and “There has to be a way to blow up the Mendota story before they attack Scott”. Note that Landgraff has enlarged the text – which means that you and I could be getting a slightly censored or manipulated version of the truth here since we’re not able to read the emails in their entirety.
Other text he’s enlarged is “dee whatshername could be a candidate”.

Dee J. Hall is with WisconsinWatch.org and also works at times for Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, I assume this refers to her. It would seem that they’ve located a story she did about an episode of abuse at Mendota Mental Health institute entitled, “Beaten Mendota patient wants action” and they used that in a campaign effort.

They say “could be a candidate” in reference to Dee which leads one to infer the team had worked to influence her or use her in some way.

For the purposes of Landgraf’s prosecution, slide 77 is the closing slide – the clincher – and the phrase I expect we’re going to hear repeated again many times.

Kelly Rindfleisch, the county worker, informs Keith Gilkes, Walker’s campaign manager that, “You guys are in the driver’s seat”.

Former Scott Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation on Monday. She did get jail time, but who knows if she’ll actually serve it. Her sentence was “stayed pending an appeal”. The judge also said she could get work release privileges, and serve her time in Columbia County close to home.

(I would rather she stay here in liberal Dane County, the 7th circle of hell for Wisconsin conservatives.)

After Milwaukee County prosecutor Bruce Landgraf’s presentation in court on Monday, Franklyn Gimbel said the only person mentioned in its 65 minutes who was facing jail time was his client, Kelly Rindfleisch.

“Scott Walker has not been accused of any wrongdoing,” Gimbel said, raising both hands in exasperation.

If Gimbel is exasperated, just imagine how I feel.

Note for future reference:
Page 24 may yield interesting leads since the individuals are a list of high-level Republicans affiliated with Brett Davis’ campaign for Lieutenant Governor at the time.

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