John Scocos ousted from the VA, later rehired by Walker
While preparing a post on the King Veterans Home, I got sucked into reading about the politicized nature of the Wisconsin VA board which began long before Scott Walker became governor. Here is just a bit of what I found on Wisconsin’s Secretary of Veteran Affairs, John Scocos.
John Scocos was fired from his position as as VA head 2 months after returning from a deployment in Iraq and 1 month after a public meeting of the VA board in 2009 “in which members grilled Scocos on department issues” and following voted unanimously, 5-0, to fire him.
The VA board then replaced Scocos with Ken Black, a man whom Scocos had recently demoted. Ken Black then fired the King home’s commandant, Bill Crowley, over $700,000 in spending that the WI VA board considered questionable and which the WI DOJ had investigated. The DOJ declared the questioned spending to be rooted in slip-ups, not crime.
At that time (2009), the Department of Veterans Affairs controlled a 2-year budget of $285 million and oversaw management of 1,100 employees.
Scocos then filed a lawsuit against the State of WI in Dane Co. court in December of 2009, alleging that his dismissal violated laws that protect soldiers returning from a deployment. He hired Jim Troupis from the infamously pro-Republican Michael Best and Friedrich law firm. (MBF also represented David Prosser during the Kloppenburg recount and MBF is the firm which assisted in the secretive redistricting work done by the GOP.)
After he was fired from the VA, Scocos went on to work at the Wisconsin Dept. of Safety and Professional Services, where “he was implicated earlier this year in two hiring scandals. One involved the hiring of an under-qualified son of a political ally, the other the mistress of a state senator.” – source
WDVA Secretary Ken Black resigned following a February 11, 2011 meeting of the Board of Veterans Affairs in which past Board Chair Marv Freedman read a statement blasting Black’s most recent alleged failures.
It’s worth nothing that February 11, 2011 is the same day that Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” and announced a rights-stripping piece of austerity legislation called the “Budget Repair Bill” – what would ultimately be known as “Wisconsin Act 10″.
Ken Black was not shy about criticizing Walker’s agenda:
He told WiscNews in March of 2011 that, “We presented a budget several months ago and that budget went forth blessed by the board [VA board] and the governor kind of took it and turned it into a different budget” He also told the news site that Walker was balancing the budget “on the backs of veterans”.
Although the press largely ignored how the budget affected veterans, the Daily Kos blogger FlotsamInAWebSea did not: “That department’s budget for 2010 was $164 million, but Walker’s budget for 2012 is $32 million less at $132 million.”
The group WI Disabled Veterans of America was later approached by Scocos and his allies to demand that they endorse restoration of Scocos as the VA head. They say that a former WDVA bureau director Ken Grant, “led a group of three state employees to Fond du Lac in a meeting during which they allegedly browbeat DAV leaders for not supporting Scocos’s reappointment and demanded that DAV’s Executive Committee reconvene and support Scocos’s demands for reinstatement to the job from which he was fired for cause. DAV’s leaders held their ground, says their press release, but the distinctly undemocratic tactics by senior state government officials have since begun to cloud the water for Grant.”
“Reportedly accompanying Grant on the strange two-agency mission of strong-arm persuasion was WDVA state employee Raymond Perez, who reportedly called the disabled veterans service organization the day following the meeting with threats of retribution if its leaders did not reconvene the Executive Committee support Scocos.”
The intervention by Team Scocos clearly backfired. Instead of endorsing Scocos, the group wrote a scathing press release against him. WI DVA said in its press release, “Former Secretary Scocos is an extremely polarizing figure who raises extreme passion in the veterans community. He is not a unifying force, but a disruptive one with a profound number of enemies.”
By the time Scocos was reinstated as a WI VA leader, state law had been changed so that the VA board could not hire or fire him. Instead that power was put into the hands of the state governor, Scott Walker, who appointed him with confirmation of a GOP majority state senate. The change in oversight in state law was opposed by the WI American Legion.
Anthony Hardie resigned from the State of
Wisconsin Council on Veterans Programs (COVP) in protest of the nomination of Scocos to serve a
fourth appointment at WDVA and second appointment as WDVA Secretary saying,
“…I find highly concerning the recent behind the scenes actions of Mr. Scocos and his surrogates in cajoling, then harassing, then threatening state leaders of the nation’s largest disabled veterans service organization…”
I’ve seen mention that Scocos got his start in the legislature as an aid to Dave Zien. He then became Assembly Sergeant at Arms while Scott Jensen was Assembly speaker.
Scocos’ would later find himself on a 2006 witness list for the trial of GOP Rep. Scott Jensen following a caucus scandal which soiled the reputations of both WI GOP and Democratic politicians.
John Scocos and Scott Walker both attended the Delevan-Darien High School but not at the same time. Scocos was born in 1956 while Scott Walker was born in 1967. I wish I had time for more research. Perhaps they were friends even back then.
Assorted Related Resources:
DISPUTE AT VETERANS HOME AT KING HEATING UP – Monday July 30, 2012 – Gilman Halsted
WisEye video of Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs Meeting at King June 15
Cap Times Editorial
Address conditions at Wisconsin Veterans Home
Full Press Release on Scocos from Disabled American Veterans of WI
DAV POSITION ON THE NOMINATION OF FORMER SECRETARY JOHN SCOCOS AS THE NEW WDVA SECRETARY