Democrats call for Walker's jobs agency head to resign

Associated Press

June 25, 2015

MADISON Two Democratic members of the board that runs Gov. Scott Walker's troubled economic development agency called Wednesday for the CEO to resign, citing critical audits and "stonewalling" the release of requested information about questionable loans.

Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca and state Sen. Julie Lassa said they no longer have confidence that Reed Hall can continue serving as secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a position he's held since October 2012.

Their call for him to resign follows Friday's release of nearly 1,000 pages of documents in response to a request from Barca and Lassa that showed the agency in 2011 and 2012 gave out more than $124 million to companies without a proper review. The awards were made before Hall took the WEDC reins.

Walker, in response to questions before the Democrats' statement, defended the agency and said it "didn't cut corners," but "obviously there's been a few cases where they weren't as highly effective as we'd like."

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick did not address the call for Hall to resign directly Wednesday, but instead said Barca and Lassa's demands were "both disingenuous and troubling."

"It's unfortunate that they are deciding to continue playing politics rather than working together to spur economic development in Wisconsin," she said, also noting that Barca and Lassa both voted to approve $95.5 million of the awards identified that did not have a staff review, as well as for tougher new policies in place now.

But the Democrats said WEDC has not been forthcoming in information to board members. Lassa said the release of the documents "was a clear attempt by WEDC to frustrate and subvert the ability of board members to receive complete information and factual answers to questions raised."

WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said the agency's staff has "responded promptly and thoroughly to numerous requests for additional documents" from Barca and Lassa. But the lawmakers said the documents were "haphazard" and did not contain key pieces of information they had requested, including approved loans for less than $200,000.

One of the loan beneficiaries, the now-defunct Milwaukee construction company Building Committee Inc., was given $500,000 even though the company was collapsing at the time and created no jobs. That was among several loans questioned by state auditors that led Walker in May to call for scrapping the loan program.

The loan to BCI came after its owner William Minahan had given Walker's 2010 gubernatorial campaign a last-minute $10,000 donation on Election Day the maximum individual contribution.