Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker won a decisive battle against the County Board to privatize the County Courthouse staffing. As a result, a private custodial firm named MidAmerican was awarded a 1.2 million dollar contract for housekeeping and janitorial services; they also won a separate contract to clean for the Department of Human Services.
But there is much more to the story than this. On December 13th, a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story affirming that the owner of MidAmercian, Edward Aprahamian, had donated a thousand dollars to Walker's gubernatorial campaign as early as June of this year. The implication was that Walker found himself in the middle of a campaign-payoff subterfuge. Shortly after, the liberal blogosphere began to blame Walker for working a "pay to play" scheme.
A liberal anti-Walker site called "Cognitive Dissidence" wrote,
"JSOnline has finally heard from Aprahamian, and it was revealed that the donation and the RFP came only a month apart. This only confirms the violation of the ethics code."
Another liberal site called "Eye on Wisconsin" wrote,
"Scott Walker promised to clean things up in Milwaukee County but he has actually done the exact opposite. To those that have been paying attention over the last seven years, this latest questionable incident is just the latest chapter in the story about Scott Walker's self serving behaviors."
And last, but not least, a quasi-conservative site called "Fairly Conservative" wrote,
"Just for the record Scott Walker, you are as sleazy as any other candidate you’ve ever accused. Privatization my ass. You just played a campaign payoff by promising Aprahamian a guaranteed income at taxpayer expense. And dude, I’ve always believed in Wisconsin. You can take that “again” and shove it down one of your dirty county toilets. Yes, I’m the conservative you only wish you could be. Imagine how much fun the left will have with you on this. "
These three blogs harshly condemned Walker for ethics violations, self-serving behavior, and payoff promises. Were these criticisms reasonable, or were they just knee-jerk responses about a public official they had already deplored?
Not to disappoint the liberal blogosphere, but Walker does not decide what custodial firm gets the job. A panel of three employees, from different divisions in the county government, are responsible for grading prospective firms against a set of pre-determined County criteria. To be clear, this panel is the sole determiner of how evaluations are assigned.
The criteria breaks down into four parts - cost, technical knowledge, quality of labor, work history. Each of these parts carries a different weight in terms of points. Cost is 30%, technical knowledge is 10%, quality of labor is 40%, and work history is 20%. Furthermore, each of these four parts are broken down into other requirements like HazMat knowledge, compliance with the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, and of course, the capacity of the firm to do the job according to the "highest standard of cleanliness".
There were a total of nine firms that submitted bids for the County Courthouse contract. MidAmerican ranked first with a score of 94.9, ABM ranked second with 91.8, and Clean Power ranked third with 84.1. Walker was not a part of the grading process, nor did he have any say in how the points were assigned.
It is now known that Ed Aprahamian, owner of MidAmerican, has made political contributions to Walker, Tom Barrett, and Jim Doyle. Cindy Kilkenny, who had argued that Aprahamian's contribution won him the job, was silent about how Aprahamian's firm also had state and city contracts. To follow her logic then, wouldn't Tom Barrett and Jim Doyle be bought off as well?
And what is not mentioned is that Jon McAlpine, owner of Jani-King, had donated $3,000 to Scott Walker last December, and yet his firm ranked a meager 7th place with only a 46.51 points in their bid for the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Why did Jani-King score so low when he clearly contributed the same amount to Walker's campaign as MidAmerican? None of these points were considered because the blogosphere was so quick to respond.
For instance, Cindy Kilkenny published her anti-Walker diatribe within just 10 minutes after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran their story. She starts her blog post saying, "I am so glad that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught this one". One wonders exactly how gleeful she really was. Perhaps she is among the very few and gifted bloggers that can fact-check articles and publish a response in 10 minutes flat, but it takes the rest of us a little longer to ensure we're not falsely accusing a public official of breaking the law.
There are a lot of allegations made by the left that everything Walker does is to bolster his campaign for governor. So if he forces county employees to take furloughs, then it must be because he's running for governor. Oddly enough, however, those same bloggers are silent about Tom Barrett forcing the Milwaukee Police Department to take unpaid furloughs and forcing the Milwaukee Fire Department to reduce staffing levels on their Truck Companies. Is not Barrett also running for governor? And if Walker were in Barrett's shoes, wouldn't these same bloggers want to know how Walker could take over MPS while running for governor at the same time?
And not to leave out our beloved county supervisors, they're telling the public they were “shut out of the process” and they were “hoodwinked”. This doesn't make much sense considering that they voted for a budget that did exactly what Walker said it would do from the beginning. If the board didn't understand the budget, then they shouldn't have voted for it until they did.
But it's not that simple. The board knows that the budget shortfall put them in a tough situation. They knew that privatization would trim off 90 county jobs while saving the county an estimated $2.6 million in 2010. That's a lot of money, so they made the tough decision to balance the budget (as they should have). However, they don't want to take the heat from AFSCME and those who lost their jobs, so they all castigate Walker.
The bottom line is that once again, MJS reporter Steve Schultze was looking for an eye-grabbing story rather than looking for all of the facts. Schultze' idea of doing investigative reporting appears to involve checking campaign finance reports, finding a campaign contribution, and leading the reader to believe that Walker might be involved in a pay-to-play scheme. Schultze should have done what I did, which was to request a "housekeeping score sheet" in order to determine how the hiring process actually works. Schultze is an experienced reporter, so there is no excuse for leaving out so many facts.