Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Did Ament’s Aides Conspire to Replace the Chair of Personnel?

By - Jan 15th, 2002 04:09 pm
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Did Tom Ament‘s aides scheme to replace the chair of the county board’s personnel committee so they could get their blockbuster pension plan passed? Two supervisors, Roger Quindel and Robert Krug, make that accusation.

Krug served as the chair of personnel for the four years before the spring, 2000 elections. “He asks a lot of questions, he’s very detailed,” Quindel says. “This could not have happened in a million years if he was running personnel. It is highly likely he would have caught this.”

Krug says the Ament administration did not like his questions. “The truth is that the administration doesn’t want anyone to know anything about how county government works on the inside. And the more you find out, the less they like it.”

Krug says that’s why he was replaced as chair of personnel by Supervisor Kathleen Arciszewski. “I’ve been told by the chairman of the board [Karen Ordinans] that Mollan, Ott and Dobbert lobbied Ordinans to remove me as the head of personnel,” Krug says.

Tom Mollan is Ament’s chief of staff, Gary Dobbert is his head of human resources and Robert Ott is county corporation counsel. Dobbert was the chief architect of the pension plan that could yield more than $2 million for Ament and payments of $1.7 for Mollan, $1.3 million for Ott and $760,000 for Dobbert.

Quindel also says these three people lobbied for Krug’s removal. “Karen told me they really didn’t want him running personnel. He didn’t want to be removed and so they got rid of him.”

“I didn’t want Dobbert back as the head of the department of human resources,” Krug says. “I distrusted him. He exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Milwaukee County.”

Ordinans did not respond to interview requests, but Quindel says he believes the board chair decided to replace Krug to make Ament happy. “Do you want to get into a running pissing match between the administration and yourself?” Quindel asks.

Mollan hung up on me when I called him for comment. Dobbert did not respond to my call. Ott conceded that he thought Krug should be replaced. “I probably agreed with that,” he says. “I won’t deny it.”

Ament didn’t exactly deny it, either. “There may have been people who asked [Ordinans to replace Krug],” he says, “but when all is said and done, she did it. She appoints, removes, all on her own.”

Considering that Krug voted for Ordinans in the 2000 election for board chair, it’s rather surprising that he was removed from his position. “It’s a touchy thing to do that on a board,” Ament says. “It’s something you don’t do very often.”

One supervisor says that Ordinans has been reluctant to take on Ament because she couldn’t get enough board members to back her up: “I said, Karen you gotta take on the third floor [where Ament’s office is located]. You’re getting steamrolled. That went on for years. It was her opinion that the board didn’t have the guts to take on Ament.”

Personnel can be a very taxing committee because of the complex employee contracts. “The number one job of the head of personnel is to bring home a good contract,” Krug says. “I gave up an entire year of my life to make sure the contract came out right [in 1996].”

“There’s a huge learning curve for that position,” Krug goes on. “Arciszewski spent the entire year [of 2000] running for state senate. Everyone she talked to advised her not to do it.”

Arciszewski did not respond to phone calls, and was also unresponsive when I wrote about this in October for Milwaukeeworld. But she has defended the pension plan to the media.

Quindel blames himself for voting for the pension proposal. “I take responsibility. I was wrong. But I was flat out lied to by Dobbert.” Quindel says that the switch on personnel, combined with misleading information from Dobbert, and lobbying by Ott, amounted to a conspiracy. “It’s like Ocean’s 11. They plotted for a long time to get the big score.”

The County Candy Store

If you thought county officials had gotten the message of outrage from the community about the pension proposal, you might be wrong. Even after the media frenzy on this issue, Quindel says he heard Ott lobbying county supervisor Sheila Aldrich on the issue. “He said people will get over it, it’s no big deal. He wasn’t hiding it. Her door was open and you could hear him. Just like Arciszewski. They honestly believe there’s nothing wrong with collecting 125% of their salary.” (Ott says Quindel misheard what he said to Aldrich.)

Quindel and Krug say there is a mentality at the courthouse that sees the county as “a cookie jar for employees,” as Quindel puts it.

“There’s a lot of decent people here,” Quindel adds, “but a lot of workers get influenced by this attitude that permeates the place that the idea of government is to get what you can for yourself. Every time you turn around they’re trying to get more.”

“It goes to the mentality here,” Krug agrees. “There are a lot of people working in county government who have completely lost sight of what it means to work for government and to work for the good of the people.”

Ott, by the way, says he doesn’t suffer from that mentality, and will agree to sign a form to forego the backdrop payments for him if Ament proposes this. No word as to whether Dobbert and Mollan would do the same.

Short Take

I am happy to report that the Linda Spice fan club is alive and well. I heard from many at the Journal Sentinel who defended her performance as their county reporter. According to Spice, the facts are these: Tom Held covered Milwaukee County when the pension plan for non-represented employees was passed on November 8, 2000. Spice took over on November 13 and continued until September 4, 2001, when she went on maternity leave. (By this time, some $4 million in back drop payments had been collected by county retirees, with pay-outs as high as $300,000 per person.)

Spice came back on November 27 and says the first thing she was handed by her editor was my milwaukeeworld stories, which ran on October 8th and 10th. She was asked to work on the story. The Journal Sentinel story appeared on January 6, 2002, some three months after the Milwaukeeworld story and three weeks after my follow-up story in Milwaukee Magazine.

This article was originally published by Milwaukee World.

condominums, but as the economy tanked during the Great Recession this project failed.  Forcing a backruptcy.  After legal wrangling the buildings are now run as apartments, not condos, by Mandel Group

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