Thursday, August 02, 2007

The county's pension mess

Yup, county supervisor should get their share of blame for the latest county pension scandal, but most of the ire should be directed at County Executive Scott Walker's administration.

From Dave Umhoefer's story on Sunday: The Journal Sentinel spent six months analyzing the costs and hired two financial experts to assist in the calculations.

That's not an analysis any single supervisor is likely to be able to do, although maybe the Personnel Committee should have contracted for its own study.

The real problem, though, is that Walker for too long had the wrong people running the county's HR department, where the practice of allowing employees "buy" past service credit should have been dissected. The county's HR department has stumbled repeatedly under Walker. Just a year ago, Supervisor James "Luigi" Schmitt called it "incompetent."

The mess in HR is Walker's responsibility. Walker for too long let hacks roam where he needed competent professionals. The huge errors by his department finally forced him to make changes this year, but his knowing neglect of this department will cost county residents plenty.

As for the County Board, it needs to look at its own structure and staff. It may be time for it to add a bit more HR / Personnel expertise of its own to provide needed information and to protect the interests of taxpayers.


capper said...

Brava! Very good point that I haven't seen elsewhere.

Joe Klein said...

Scott Walker seems incapable of taking resposibility after more than six years in office.

Quoting from Bruce Murphy latest ...

"-He hired outside counsel, attorney Charles Stevens, to advise the county on its legal options, and to draft waiver forms for non-union employees to file a waiver of the extra pension benefits. Stevens put in a grand total of 25 hours work on an issue with huge financial implications, yet of apparently little interest for Walker.

"-Only after he was pushed by county board members did Walker get serious about negotiating a cost-saving ceiling on the number of years and level of interest paid on backdrop pension payments.

"-He declined to pursue legal action against the Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren law firm for the advice it gave county officials on the pension plan. The head of the firm, back when Walker made this decision, was then state Republican chair Rick Graber, who had donated campaign money to Walker.

"-He made no effort to initiate legal action against beneficiaries of the buyback plan for seasonal and part-time employees until Umhoefer began sniffing into the issue. And Walker has yet to investigate whether the 1999 awarding of pension benefits for CETA employment, which was first reported in January, 2002, was illegal."