Presto! County Finds Bond Papers

Published in 7/19/2004 MILWAUKEE — In an episode of the slapstick comedy series, “The Three Stooges,” Moe turns to Larry and says, “There’s something rotten in Denmark.” Larry, in his off-the-wall way, responds by saying, “But we’re in Boston!” Scott Walker, Milwaukee County executive, is under some intense scrutiny brought on by Milwaukee’s only daily newspaper, and to take the line from the Stooges, “There’s something rotten in Denmark.” Walker was at a national conference trying to manage the crisis — and it blew up in his face. Indeed, the rotten smell at the county is becoming even more pungent as the story continues to develop. Unfortunately for Walker, some misstatements he made on WTMJ-AM’s Charles Sykes show and a press release he issued is having some impact on his credibility. What’s going on? Well, here’s the abbreviated version. After news reports in Chicago surfaced that a firm that manages financial bonds, Bear Stearns, was being investigated by federal authorities in Illinois, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel moved to inquire about Bear Stearns’ $100 million bond deal made with Milwaukee County. A request for records was made in June by MJS. Walker, after it was reported that the documents were missing, said on the Charlie Sykes radio show that the request for the documents in question was made more recent than that — a statement Walker later had to retract. Some time had passed when finally the daily was told that the documents were missing. Oops! Wrong answer. Indeed, after another news report covering the resignation of embattled investment banker P. Nicholas Hurtgen from his job at the Chicago office of Bear Stearns & Co. hit the streets, the issue took on a juicy political twist. Shortly after MJS published an article reporting that it had learned that the Bear Stearns file was missing at Milwaukee County, the U.S. Attorney and Milwaukee County DA initiated investigations. But wait! Now that a little bit of “outside pressure” was applied — PRESTO! The Bear Stearns file magically reappeared on Friday. The document had been placed in the wrong filing cabinet. But someone forgot to tell Walker. He issued a statement from his national conference that the lost documents were found on Thursday night, one day before the documents were actually found. Hmm…sounds like someone got the wrong signals from the playbook. Walker said in his prepared statement, “It still remains absolutely unacceptable to me that documents with such significance to county operations would be misfiled and not immediately available.” Okey-dokey…so is someone going to be fired for this major blunder? I really would hate to see what the rest of the filing system looks like. Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann correctly predicted that the records would be located, now that outside pressure was being applied. Translation: He’s seen this before. The evidence is eventually found after public interest has been generated from news reports. If it can’t be controlled, the information is released before someone gets into real trouble. State and federal investigators are now looking into the Bear Stearns issue here, specifically focusing on how the bid was handled between the county and the firm, McCann, along with a top deputy and a federal prosecutor, are questioning all involved at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Oh, yeah, and Bear Stearns folks had contributed financially to the Scott Walker campaign. Coincidence? Hey, Moe! Something smells rotten in Milwaukee County government. Robert Miranda is a national award-winning columnist, Latino community activist and columnist for the Milwaukee Spanish Journal. This article was previously published in 7/19/2004.
by Robert Miranda