A sordid affair in Wisconsin just became more disgusting as a John Doe investigation into Scott Walker corruption during his tenure as Milwaukee County executive, and his campaign for governor shows Walker appointees pocketed $1,000s intended for veterans and their families, among other repulsive developments.
By Dan BiceThree individuals - including a former top aide to Gov. Scott Walker - were charged Thursday with felonies as part of the ongoing John Doe investigation into Walker staffers.
Tim Russell, a longtime Walker campaign and county staffer, was charged with two felonies and one misdemeanor count of embezzlement. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said the charges are tied to Operation Freedom, an annual military appreciation day held at the zoo.
The complaint says that Russell diverted to his personal bank account more than $21,000 intended for Operation Freedom, using some of those dollars to go on Hawaiian and Caribbean vacations with his domestic partner.Chisholm said some of the stolen money was intended for the families of Wisconsin soldiers who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Funds also were used for wounded veterans of the war in Iraq. In 2010, Walker's county administration had asked prosecutors to investigate what had happened to $11,000 raised in 2007 for the event.
Other funds were used, the complaint says, for Russell to attend a weekend political strategy session in December 2010 with Herman Cain and his chief of staff, Mark Block, to discuss Cain's now-defunct presidential campaign.
Chisholm announced the charges at a noon news conference, but said he could not take questions because of the ongoing investigation. He noted that Walker's administration had asked for the investigation and said his office was following the evidence without regard to politics. ...
Also charged Thursday was Brian Pierick, Russell's longtime partner and a staffer at the state Department of Public Instruction, and Kevin Kavanaugh, Walker's appointee to the Milwaukee County Veteran Service Commission.
Kavanaugh, 61, of Cudahy is charged with five felonies for theft and fraudulent writings by a corporate officer. He was the treasurer of the Milwaukee Purple Heart chapter at the time of the dispute over the $11,000 for Operation Freedom.
Prosecutors say he stole more than $42,000 in donations intended to families of U.S. service members killed or wounded in Iraq.
Kavanaugh embezzled and otherwise stole money given to the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Kavanaugh was finance officer for the organization's Milwaukee-area chapter, named for the late war veteran Michelle Witmer. ...
The donations for the event were obtained by Russell on behalf of Walker from local businesses.
He also siphoned Purple Heart money that came from three different sources: former state Sen. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin), a grant from the Rolfs Family Foundation and the Purple Heart's own foundation. Gundrum, now a state appeals court justice, donated more than $28,000 of his legislative salary to the Purple Heart while he was on active duty in Iraq; Kavanaugh peeled off $4,800 of that amount. ...
In August 2010, authorities seized Russell's county computer just weeks before the gubernatorial primary.
A longtime political hand, Russell, 48, used to run former Gov. Tommy Thompson's Milwaukee office and had been with Walker since he ran for county executive in 2002. Russell did not get a job in the Walker administration in Madison. ...
Walker set up the annual Operation Freedom as a military appreciation day at the zoo for veterans, who got free admission and food. It was run through the county executive's office.
Russell was the coordinator of the event and worked on it with Darlene Wink, another former Walker aide at the county who has been under investigation in the John Doe probe.