News Column

Scott Walker Subpoenaed to Testify

October 9, 2012

Steve Schultze

Gov. Scott Walker has been subpoenaed to testify in the criminal trial of a former aide. The subpoena was sent to Walker's lawyer Friday, according to a court document. The subpoena orders Walker to show up Oct. 16 for the trial of Kelly M. Rindfleisch.

She stands accused of four felony misconduct charges of doing campaign work while at her job in Milwaukee County as deputy chief of staff to Walker in 2010. At that time, Walker was Milwaukee County executive and a Republican candidate for governor. Her charges grew from a two-year secret John Doe investigation that's focused on former aides and associates of Walker.

Rindfleisch is accused of making numerous campaign-related phone calls and sending campaign emails while at work in her county office, which was near Walker's at the courthouse. State law bars public employees from doing campaign work in public buildings or while working a government job.

Her trial is scheduled to start Oct. 15.

Michael Steinle, Walker's lawyer, did not return a call . Jocelyn Webster, a spokeswoman for Walker in the governor's office, said she would defer any comment to Walker's campaign staff. Walker campaign spokesman Thomas Evenson said the governor "continues to cooperate with authorities as he has throughout this process."

Walker has said he's not a target of the John Doe probe.

Walker had previously appeared on a witness list for Rindfleisch's trial.

Others on the prosecution witness list included Brett Davis, the state Medicaid director. Davis was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, when Rindfleisch worked extensively on fundraisers for Davis while at her taxpayer-paid county job, according to a criminal complaint.

Other Walker associates listed as possible witnesses at Rindfleisch's trial are: Michael Huebsch, state administration secretary under Walker and a former Republican state lawmaker; Cullen Werwie, spokesman for Walker at the Capitol and Davis' campaign manager for his lieutenant governor bid; Keith Gilkes, Walker's 2010 campaign manager; and James Villa, Walker's chief of staff at the county.

Werwie has been granted immunity from prosecution in the John Doe probe.

Walker also is on a witness list for the trial of another former aide, Timothy Russell, who is accused of embezzling more than $20,000 from a fund for veterans. Russell was housing director and deputy chief of staff to Walker at the county.

Meanwhile, the trial of another former Walker associate on charges that grew from the John Doe investigation got under way Monday. Kevin Kavanaugh, 62, is accused of embezzling $42,000 in money intended for veterans and their families. Most of the money was raised for Operation Freedom, an annual veterans' event hosted by Walker while he was county executive, according to a criminal complaint.

Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley told jurors in his opening statement that Kavanaugh regularly skimmed money from deposits for Operation Freedom and from other sources and took it for himself in cash. He had access to the money in his role as treasurer for the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Walker had the Purple Heart chapter handle the donations and payments for the Operation Freedom events after then-Corporation Counsel Bill Domina recommended in 2006 that the county executive's office no longer directly handle it, Tom Nardelli, Walker's chief of staff at the county, testified.

Kavanaugh also had been named by Walker as a member of the county Veterans Service Commission.

Concerns about Kavanaugh's handling of the money were raised by other Walker staffers as early as 2007, Nardelli said. After repeated attempts to meet with Kavanaugh failed, Nardelli said he took the issue to the district attorney's office in 2009 at Walker's urging.

Christopher Hartley, Kavanaugh's lawyer, said Kavanaugh was known in veterans circles as the "go-to guy" for veterans needing help. Many veterans with financial trouble would come to him with requests for immediate cash for things like food or temporary shelter, and Kavanaugh "on a routine basis distributed money to them."

Hartley said Kavanaugh was a "lousy bookkeeper -- absolutely lousy. But that's not what he's on trial for here."

Kavanaugh faces up to 34 years in prison and $65,000 in fines if he's convicted on the five felony charges.



Source: (c)2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by MCT Information Services


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