Wisconsin Wire: Cronyism Amok In WI, New Connections Revealed

Robin Vos

Robin Vos

It seems everywhere we look there are more examples of cronyism in Wisconsin. Most of it is in job appointments, but a couple more links were revealed today that are a bit different from normal and perhaps more concerning. They also hit very close to home. Neither of these new connections involve material gain, however, which makes them both unusual and alarming. It’s easy to see the connection when the salaries are in front of you but what about cronyism with an outcome higher than material gain?  What happens when the person most involved gains nothing of obvious value? Well some of this can be answered by speculation which may or may not be accurate, but I’ll provide the facts and let the readers decide.

The first involves Robin Vos. As you may recall, Robin is the State Chair of ALEC or the American Legislative Exchange Council, a matchmaking organization between corporate money and agendas and legislators, nearly all Republican. You may also recall, according to his match.com profile he likes skinny dipping, erotica, and money. He is also the co-chair of the Joint Finance  Committee, the most powerful group in the legislature and the one most responsible for this horrible state budget that is already starting to cripple our economy and general well being. Well, I decided to look a little further into Robin and it turns out there is a major conflict of interest right before your eyes. I took a trip to Robin’s campaign website and at the bottom saw a disclaimer. In the disclaimer the treasurer was named Bonnie Ladwig. Bonnie Ladwig? Where have I heard that name before? The name had recently become a topic of interest in my investigations into legislator ties and brought to mind an article I had recently seen from 2006.

Former state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig was sentenced this morning to 30 days home confinement on electronic monitoring, a $1,000 fine (plus court costs) and $3,500 in restitution. The sentence exceeded the plea deal she reached with the DA that included only the restitution and fine.

In issuing the sentence, Dane County Judge Steven Ebert denounced an “elite cabal” in the Capitol that has created a perpetual quest for money and power and believes its opinion is the only one that truly matters, insulting Wisconsin’s democratic ideals.

Ladwig tearfully apologized to the court, saying she realized her legacy would not turn out as she had hoped. She called the past four years the worst of her life, professed love for her old job as a lawmaker and apologized to taxpayers, staff and other legislators for what she had done, adding she had “nobody to blame but myself.”

“I hope in my 12 years in office I did a little something to make Wisconsin a better place to live,” she said.

That’s right, the Scott Jensen trial, where Bonnie Ladwig plead guilty to misdemeanor ethics violation charges. Vos, her aide at the time, decided to run. But rather than do what most people would do and sever all professional ties with someone who has been convicted of ethics violations in office, he did the opposite. He made her campaign treasurer as he ran for her seat. According to the GAB 1 or campaign registration form, the treasurer name seems to switch from time to time from Bonnie Ladwig to Samantha Vos. Regardless, it is shameful at best to give the campaign treasurer position, one that is usually volunteer and the most powerful in a campaign, to your former boss who would probably still be your boss had she not committed ethics violations in office, for which she was convicted. You can see the trail of corruption a mile away.

So then we get to cronyism instance number two and one that hits very close to home.  As you may recall, I had filed a complaint against the State Patrol for illegal arrest and excessive force in the Assembly on September 13th (stories here and here). I still have neck injuries from this arrest and I believe some of the other people removed that day still have injuries as well. All we were doing was silently filming the Assembly. But separate from any criminal or civil investigations into this matter, a new investigation was launched. An internal investigation, as I had requested, into whether the arrests were legal (to avoid future arrests) and whether or not excessive force was used in this case. I also requested they investigate what the involvement of Chief Charles Tubbs may or may not have been in the setting up of the situation where there are three State Patrol officers and no Capitol Police supervising. Apparently this investigation was deemed better to be done by an outside agency so it would remain impartial, which I can respect. The outside agency chosen? The Dodge County Sheriff’s Department. The Detective, Bob Neuman. This is where it gets interesting.

Bob introduced himself to me on Friday after the Solidarity Sing Along. He seemed slightly nervous and stressed. How would he, as a public worker remain impartial and how he is here to investigate whether or not the arrests were legal and whether or not excessive force was used? I sensed that this deserved some investigation, especially considering all of the allegations I have heard (not saying they’re true, just leads one to question) about corruption between the Fitzgerald’s and the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department. I think we can all agree this investigation needs to remain politically impartial and the further I looked, the more it looked like Bob Neuman was sent here to serve one of two common right wing agendas in Wisconsin, discredit me as an individual (which is what the talk show hosts on the right love to try), or remove Chief Tubbs. Let’s dig further and present you with the facts, this is not some wild conspiracy theory, there are major conflicts of interest.

First, for a number of years, Bob worked for Stephen Fitzgerald, the current head of the State Patrol, and father to Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker of the Assembly and Republican Candidate for US Senate, Jeff Fitzgerald. Bob has also campaigned for Stephen and they are said to be very close personally. Here is one account from Todd Nehls, current Dodge County Sheriff, and Lieutenant when Fitzgerald was Sheriff, of the connection between Bob and Stephen, which becomes all the more relevant as we dig deeper, here.

Nehls and several active deputies say Fitzgerald for years has turned a blind eye to Neuman’s excesses and reward him for political loyalty.  Neuman, they point out, has campaigned for Fitzgerald since he was first elected in 1988.  The sheriff-as a payback, they say-promoted Neuman to detective the next year and turned him into the county’s highest-profile narcotics cop.

It is clear Bob has personal ties at the very least to Stephen Fitzgerald. But now that Nehls is Sheriff, Bob is still on the force, which is interesting to note considering the second conflict of interest. Bob was, himself, put on trial for using excessive force, in a case in which the County settled for $950,000. In fact, this case was much worse than anything alleged by me. Bob shot an unarmed man with the man’s little boy sleeping in the next room. His excuse was that it was an accident. You can find a very good account of the entire story in the link above, also here. Not only does this leave us to question why Bob is even on the force (keep in mind he had SWAT shooting training)   but why he, out of everyone, would be assigned. Clearly it is a conflict of interest to have someone who has been through an excessive force investigation which settled but likely would not have turned out well for him, investigating excessive force. I have officially asked for a change of venue in the agency conducting the investigation. I want this to be investigated. But with a fair and impartial deck, I don’t want a stacked deck either in or against my favor. So I make this public in hopes that it spreads and that pressures them to comply. I will post more on this story as it develops.


Jeremy Ryan

Executive Director

Defending Wisconsin PAC

[email protected]

[Editor’s Note: Donations made through this post go to the author, not the website]

Note: Segway Jeremy Ryan has become a full-time member of the protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Formerly a businessman, he gave up his business to join the fight for the middle class in the State of Wisconsin. Through videos and writings he has informed hundreds of thousands of people about what was going on at the Wisconsin State Capitol once the mainstream media had mostly abandoned the protests. His full-time activism is completely funded by the people. If you would like to help out please click here.

Edited by Wendy Gittleson