By Aaron M. Rodriguez
For all I know, Mr. Evers is a well-mannered and articulate man who is serious about our children's education. His years of experience in the Department of Public Instruction leads me to believe that he considers public education to be a top priority. Qualification aside, however, the fact remains that he needs to come forward and publicly apologize for breaking the Wisconsin state law. The apology isn't necessary because the law in question is sacrosanct, or because he needs to appease the righteous anger of the right, but because admission of a mistake is what we expect from our public officials.
Recently, we've acquired knowledge that Tony Evers utilized a government email system to elicit the help of Jeff Dickert, a CESA 7 education administrator, in order to organize a fundraiser on behalf of his campaign. According to Wisconsin state law, section 946.12, it is a class I felony for a state employee to exercise discretionary power in a manner inconsistent with his duties when there is an "intent to obtain a dishonest advantage." It would appear, therefore, that Tony Evers violated such law when he used his government position to secure an unfair advantage over his rival Rose Fernandez.
In a debate with Rose Fernandez, Evers defended himself from accusations of misconduct saying,
I never directed anyone else to do things improper. Any e-mails that came from me, came from my home e-mail address
This statement is false. The first email Evers dispatched to Dickert originated from his government account at DPI, which he forwarded to his personal account, and then forwarded it to Dickert's public email address. Essentially, Evers' personal email account was used as a midway conduit for his government account. In this email, Evers asked Dickert to organize a fundraiser.
There are a few complications that arise when Jeff Dickert gets involved. First, the conversation about Evers' candidacy emerged through the public email exchange. The conversation was already political at this point, but when it turned into strategies beneficial to Evers campaign, Evers forwarded the conversation to his personal email account. However, it was already too late. When Evers used his discretionary power to contact Dickert for an unfair advantage, he broke the law. If there are any doubts about Evers' intent to secure an unfair advantage, here is an email he sent to Dickert:
Whatever you can do to get the word out would be appreciated. Hopefully, CESA 7 employees and CESA 7 area districts will be well-represented.
CESA 7 is a Green Bay school district. And Jeff Dickert is the state administrator of CESA 7. There is no reasonable explanation why Evers would choose Dickert to dispatch news about the Green Bay fundraising event if it weren't to utilize Dickert's office in a way that is unavailable to people like Rose Fernandez. Evers wanted Dickert to use his administrator status to persuade CESA 7 employees and CESA 7 business officials to attend the event. It is apparent, therefore, that Evers not only broke the law by dispatching his first email to Dickert, but he also made Dickert an accomplice in the commission of a felony. This is what Rose Fernandez referred to in her debate with Evers when she said,
Certainly didn't bank on the fact that public resources would be involved in advancing my opponent's campaign.The second problem is that Evers was apparently crafty enough to change email addresses, but allowed Dickert to continue the exchange from his public account. Why didn't he instruct Dickert to stop using his public account? The answer is that Evers expected that Dickert would use his government account to "get the word out." How else would Dickert get access to the specific email addresses of CESA 7 superintendents and business officials? Evers didn't give Dickert the warning because it would have defeated the purpose of contacting Dickert to begin with, which was to use CESA to raise money for his campaign.
When the news broke on the Belling show that Dickert violated state law, Dickert accepted the blame and apologized for his misconduct. However, Tony Evers, who was the prime mover behind the ordeal, was nowhere to be found.
Belling had petitioned an open records request, so Evers knew that the truth would eventually surface. And yet he still allowed Dickert be his fall guy. But Dickert wasn't the only one hung out to dry. Evers' campaign staffers told Blogger Jay Bullock that they “wouldn’t recognize Dickert if they saw him.” This implied that Evers couldn't be involved in Dickert's email dispatch because Evers doesn't personally know Dickert.
As a result, Jay Bullock publishes a counterfactual article riddled with unfounded assertions and erroneous conclusions. I've listed some of Bullock's falsehoods below:
1. The [Evers'] "campaign had nothing to do with Dickert's email"
2. "Fernandezistas [Fernandez supporters] are not shy about throwing around unfounded and often clearly false charges"
3. "Dickert is not a 'player' in the campaign"
4. "Evers and his campaign violated no laws at all"
5. "Fernandez supporters would rather waste time spreading outright lies about Evers"
Based upon Belling's open records request, each of the 5 assertions above are factually incorrect. They are the product of poor journalism because Bullock prematurely interpreted the lack of email exchanges from Evers as evidence that Evers wasn't involved. When the evidence finally surfaced demonstrating that Evers participated in the email exchange, thus using public resources to secure an unfair advantage, Bullock's conclusion was thrown on its head. And I'm still wondering when Mr. Bullock will publish an article correcting his mistakes and apologize to those conservative bloggers he unfairly accused of lying. Perhaps a timely publication is in order?
The title of this article underscores the ethics of Tony Evers. It was Evers’ idea to elicit the help of Jeff Dickert, not the other way around. When Dickert got into hot water, Evers hung him out to dry. And now that the truth is out, the Evers’ campaign has yet to apologize publicly for the scandal. This string of ethical failures is not the best way to secure the trust of Wisconsin’s parents. Wisconsin deserves an apology.