Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yet Another Long Time Walker Crony Implicated In John Doe

Just when Scott Walker thought his no good, rotten, absolutely horrible, miserable week couldn't get any worse, it does.

In a Friday afternoon news drop, it was revealed that another one of Walker's long time political/governmental aides and crony was being investigated in the John Doe investigation commonly referred to as Walkergate:
No charges were filed against Jim Villa, the UW System’s vice president of university relations. But sworn statements released this week show investigators sought a search warrant for Villa’s home and office. At the time, he was president of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin, and he was previously Walker’s chief of staff.

To justify the warrants, investigators wrote that they suspected Villa had broken several laws, including misconduct in public office and solicitation of public employees to commit misconduct. They presented evidence of Villa’s involvement in both an alleged bid-rigging scheme and a political action committee that Walker aide Tim Russell was suspected of doing work for while on county time.

Russell was convicted of embezzling money from a veterans fund. Kelly Rindfleisch, a Walker aide convicted of campaigning on taxpayer time, was staying at Villa’s home and previously disclosed that it had been searched. The records released don’t include warrants or the results of any search that was conducted of Villa’s property.

The September 2011 affidavit were previously sealed under a John Doe secrecy order but were released with the permission of John Doe Judge Neal Nettesheim by the defendants in a lawsuit brought by Cindy Archer, another former Walker aide who was also under investigation but never charged.
The alleged bid-rigging that the article refers to involves an incident that happened while Walker was still Milwaukee County Executive. There were some shenanigans going on between Villa, then Walker campaign treasurer John Hiller and Walker regarding a bidding process for where the county's Department of Aging was going to be housed (emphasis mine):
The Reuss building had been taken over in late 2004 by its lender, Philadelphia-based RAIT Investment Trust, which hired Boerke Co. as the local leasing agent.

Walker campaign adviser Hiller lobbied on the 2005 deal, according to Dennik, who said at the time he viewed Hiller as speaking for Boerke.

Hiller, one of Walker's closest confidantes, served as treasurer of Walker's county and gubernatorial campaigns, a position he left in May 2011. He also led Walker's transition team after his 2010 election. He was familiar with Dennik, who had served as director of Walker's 2002 campaign for county executive.

Hiller, himself a real estate broker and developer, said he "probably" pointed the Reuss owners to the county opportunity, and discussed the situation with Dennik. Hiller told the newspaper in 2005 he was hired by the Reuss owners to develop strategies to fill empty offices there.

Hiller at the time downplayed his own role, but said he advised Boerke Co. on which county supervisors to approach to prompt a rebidding of the deal. Hiller said he called Rice, another of Walker's close allies, to urge him to talk to Boerke Co. about doing a "best and final offer" round.

Records show Jensen wrote a letter to key supervisors, including Rice, who later made the motion to reopen the bidding, citing potential savings.

Meanwhile, the Markesan Group - a lobbying firm set up by former Walker chief of staff Jim Villa - lobbied on the 2005 deal, according to Dennik. It couldn't be determined if Villa personally lobbied for it.

Villa left the firm in December 2003 to do Walker campaign work, but in August 2005 - in the midst of the Aging Department bid process - returned to the county executive's office.

Hiller said he did not talk to Villa about the process at that point; Villa felt that ethically he should stay out of it, Hiller said. Villa declined to comment for this story.

The Markesan Group was the main consultant behind Walker's 2004 county re-election effort and helped him launch his 2006 gubernatorial bid. Records show it was paid $126,000 in 2005 by Walker's campaign fund. Hiller said he used to work for Markesan Group, but not in this case.
And if the gentle reader was wondering, Walker has continued to be good friends and tight cronies with Villa, making sure Villa was rewarded for his loyalty to Walker by giving him a cushy, good paying job - at taxpayers' expense of course:
Jim Villa is leaving his post as president of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin after landing a job as vice president for university relations at the University of Wisconsin System.

Villa will earn $178,000 in his new position and will start May 5, according to a UW announcement.
They say crime doesn't pay but that's not necessarily true in Walker's Wisconsin.

1 comment:

  1. When has Walker ever had people around him who were not suspect or under investigation? Those are the only kind of people who want anything to do with him.