This is a guide to almost all the main players in the John Doe investigation that was conducted concerning when Walker was Milwaukee County executive and leading up to Walker running for governor in 2010 and beyond. The investigation was ended with criminal convictions against six individuals, including three ex-Walker aides, a campaign donor and one appointee. Walker supporters being proud that Walker got away without any convictions is like being proud a boss didn’t notice his staff was stealing products out of the warehouse right under his nose and didn’t notice until after they got caught red-handed.
There are new developments regarding how the Scott Walker 2010 campaign was managing the O’Donnell Parking Garage accident:
In the initial phases of the John Doe investigation, the public learned how then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s county aides worked on his gubernatorial campaign while working at their taxpayer-funded jobs. Some of these aides were prosecuted for their illegal behavior.
But the release of hundreds of emails sealed for years under the John Doe’s secrecy order—recently released as part of the litigation involving the O’Donnell Park tragedy—reveals more serious evidence of how Walker’s top campaign advisers were actually calling the shots on county matters to protect Walker and his campaign for governor from political damage from this tragedy.
And make no mistake: Scott Walker was definitely aware that his campaign and county staffers were working together to shape his image as he ran for governor in 2010.
Walker was copied on almost all of the emails.
‘Make Sure There Is Not a Paper Anywhere’
Immediately after a concrete slab fell off the O’Donnell Park parking structure and killed 15-year-old Jared Kellner and injured two others on June 24, 2010, Walker’s campaign aides took control of Walker’s image.
Nowhere in any of the emails released is there evidence of Walker or any of his campaign or county staffers expressing sympathy or concern for the Kellner family or the public’s safety. Their only interest seems to be managing Walker’s image and distancing himself from any potential cause of the structure’s failures.
To do so, Walker’s campaign and county aides worked outside of the county’s official email servers to prepare his messaging, dig up information on the structure’s history and discuss how to respond to requests from the public.
Because they conducted their operations outside of the official network, Walker’s aides were able to evade open records requests from reporters and members of the public about the true state of the parking structure—and the extent to which Walker’s campaign and county aides were aligned.
As Keith Gilkes, Walker’s campaign manager, put it immediately after Kellner was killed: “Make sure there is not a paper any where that details a problem at all.”
At the same time Walker’s campaign was working on the response to the tragedy, his inner circle was complaining about the “politicization” of it. Walker himself wrote on July 20, 2010, “It is disgusting that anyone would use a tragedy for such blatant political purposes.”
It’s difficult to see how Walker could have a legitimate complaint about politics intruding on his official county affairs, since he politicized the matter by sending that email from his campaign email account to his top campaign aides and his top county aides on their personal email addresses.
Inside Walker’s Inner Circle
Walker was copied on almost all of the emails dealing with O’Donnell Park, but not at his county email address.
Instead, Walker discussed this official county matter via his campaign email account with his inner circle. The main players included:
Fran McLaughlin: Walker’s county spokeswoman at the time of the tragedy, McLaughlin proved to be the main conduit between Walker’s campaign and county staffers. McLaughlin would receive an email at her official county account, then forward it to a personal email account to get it off of the county’s official email system.
From her personal email, McLaughlin would forward the message to the inner circle, which included Walker at his campaign email account, Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli at his personal email account, Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rindfleisch at her personal email account, longtime Walker campaign and county aide Tim Russell at his personal email account, Walker campaign manager Keith Gilkes, campaign spokeswoman Jill Bader, longtime county and campaign advisor Jim Villa and campaign operative R.J. Johnson. Frequently, Department of Administrative Services chief Cindy Archer would participate on her private email account. McLaughlin often used her “gopfran” email address on these county matters as well.
From the emails it’s clear that McLaughlin had to run all communications through this inner circle, which apparently is the same circle that prosecutors dubbed “The Campaign Group.” McLaughlin was frequently overruled on her suggestions and deferred to Walker and his campaign advisors on statements about O’Donnell Park and responses to reporters.
McLaughlin was so committed to Walker’s political future that she monitored all news coverage of county matters and forwarded them to the group. No matter was too small for her attention. For example, she emailed Walker and his inner political and county circle “can someone get supporters to vote?” on a Business Journal poll asking if former Congressman Mark Neumann or Walker would win the Republican primary for governor.
McLaughlin was given immunity from prosecution for her activities while Walker was in office. She’s currently the spokeswoman for Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Tim Russell: Russell was a longtime county and campaign aide to Walker. In June 2010, Russell was working as Walker’s director of Housing in the Department of Health and Human Services, a position that had nothing to do with O’Donnell Park. At the same time, as we learned from the John Doe investigation, Russell was embezzling more than $20,000 from a sham veterans’ charity he’d set up with Walker’s blessing.
Prosecutors alleged that Russell also purchased a private wifi router for the county executive’s suite so that Walker’s inner aides could communicate without having to go through the county’s email server.
In January, Russell was sentenced to two years in prison and five years on probation for his crimes. His domestic and business partner, Brian Pierick, was sentenced to community service and fined $2,100 for misdemeanor delinquency for sending graphic images to a Waukesha County teen. Pierick’s personal email address pops up from time to time in the O’Donnell emails.
Kelly Rindfleisch: Russell hired Rindfleisch as a policy analyst for Walker’s county executive office in January 2010 and by June 2010 she was working as Walker’s deputy chief of staff. But that wasn’t her only place of employment. While Rindfleisch was working as Walker’s county aide, she was also working as a fundraiser for Brett Davis, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Prosecutors allege that she exchanged more than a thousand emails with Walker’s campaign staffers during regular business hours at the county.
Immediately after the O’Donnell tragedy, Walker campaign manager Keith Gilkes ordered her to go to work early the next day to “Keep on top of Sue Black, [county aide Steven] Kreklow, [county aide Cindy] Archer and all staff to make sure there is not a paper any where that details a problem at all. My fear is some 1999 memo to [former County Executive Tom] Ament outlines a problem—and somehow Ament remembers it and finds it. [County attorney Tim] Schoewe needs to have every piece of paper ever created on this structure completely reviewed. You are the only person capable of overseeing these people.”
Rindfleisch agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors for one felony count of misconduct in public office and was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation. She’s appealing her conviction and remains free during the appeal.
Tom Nardelli: Nardelli served as Walker’s chief of staff and Rindfleisch’s boss during the O’Donnell Park aftermath, then secured two state positions when Walker was elected governor. He abruptly quit his state job in August 2011, while the John Doe probe was heating up.
Nardelli routinely used a personal email account for the O’Donnell Park matters, but he seemed to chafe against the Walker campaign staffers’ intrusion on county affairs, at one point grumbling, “just in case anyone cares what I think as COS [chief of staff].” Nardelli appears to have sent that message on his cell phone via his private email account.
When, just a month before the general election in 2010, he finds that a lawsuit would be filed in the O’Donnell Park case, Nardelli advised Walker: “You need to be as far away from this issue as possible.”
Nardelli was never charged with a crime or granted immunity from prosecutors, and it’s unknown if he testified in the probe.
Cindy Archer: Archer was the head of the Department of Administrative Services and communicated often via her personal email account about O’Donnell Park. Archer would often pose “breakfast topic” questions, such as whether Walker’s aides could affect the timing of reports on O’Donnell Park and the troubled Behavioral Health Division. Archer wondered if they should be released before or after the November 2010 election, then conceded that they had no control over their release. Archer also wrote in an email to Nardelli and Rindfleisch that she was “getting mixed messages from the campaign side” about how the county executive’s office was handling open records requests.
Archer followed Walker to Madison when he was elected governor. State and federal law enforcement officers raided her home in September 2011 and seized items including a computer hard drive. She wasn’t charged with any crimes, nor was she granted immunity from prosecution. On Monday, the Journal Sentinel reported, Archer began a job in the state Public Defender’s Office, where she will earn a $101,510 salary.
Walker Aides’ War on Reporters and Transparency
When Walker’s campaign and county aides weren’t complaining about progressive members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and, ironically, the “politicization” of the tragedy, they were moaning about local reporters’ coverage of the O’Donnell Park investigation. They complained about Aaron Diamant at TMJ4; Brendan Conway, then at WISN and now working as the spokesman for County Executive Chris Abele; Mick Trevey, then at TMJ4; and, not surprisingly, the Shepherd.
Not all reporters came under fire, however. Gilkes from the campaign instructed Rindfleisch to get a response to “talk radio ASAP to get our spin on it right away.” Right-wing talker Charlie Sykes emailed Walker’s campaign address about TMJ4’s coverage of the incident, which Walker then forwarded to his county and campaign aides. Tim Russell informed the others that the Journal Sentinel’s Jesse Garza had promised Walker “good ink” on the tragedy. And Aaron Rodriguez, then working for the Hispanic Conservative blog and El Conquistador, was given the kid-glove treatment when he asked McLaughlin questions. He now blogs for the Journal Sentinel and is one of Chris Abele’s favorite bloggers.
Latest news on Kelly Rindfleisch and links to Walker:
|Walker Player||Link to Walker||Status/Charges|
|Tim Russell||Scott Walker’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, former Housing Administrator, former Economic Development Director, and former Operator of ScottWalker.org. He was fired from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority after it was discovered in 1993 that he improperly billed hotel stays. He set up the secret email network that allowed government staffers to illegally campaign for Walker who was Milwaukee County executive. Mr. Russell also allegedly stole thousands of dollars from Operation Freedom and used the money to pay for Caribbean and Hawaiian vacations and a political trip to Atlanta to meet with Herman Cain’s presidential campaign.||One felony count of theft (value exceeding $10,000), a Class G felony punishable by fines of up to $25,000 and/or 10 years in prison. One felony count of theft (value $2,500-5,000), a Class I felony punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and/or 3.5 years in prison. One misdemeanor count of theft (value not exceeding $2,500), a Class A misdemeanor punishable by fines not more than $10,000 and/or up to 9 months in prison.
Criminal ComplaintUPDATE: A final pre-trial hearing was set for June 4, with a trial scheduled for June 18. That date was now set for December, 2012. Russell was sentenced for two years in prison and two years of extended supervision on January 22, 2013.
|Brian Pierick||Pierick and and partner Tim Russell operated Scott Walker’s campaign website, ScottWalker.org. A criminal complaint alleges Pierick tried to entice a 17-year-old boy into his van to have sex and exchanged illicit text messages with a 17-year-old Waukesha boy. He could face up to 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine on the most serious charge he faces. Pierick had worked as an office operations assistant at the state Department of Public Instruction dealing with education for homeless children and youth.||Charged with one felony count of child enticement (exposing sex organ), a Class D felony punishable by fines of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 25 years. One felony count of exposing genitals or pubic area, a Class I Felony, punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3.5 years.
|Kevin Kavanaugh||Walker’s political appointee to the Milwaukee County Veteran Service Commission was involved in “Operation Freedom” and is alleged to have stolen money allocated for children of Wisconsin military service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.||Under investigation for several serious felony and misdemeanor for embezzling at least $42,232 from the Military Order of the Purple Heart between 2006 and 2009.
UPDATE: Kevin Kavanaugh was found guilty of embezzling more than $42,000 from Operation Freedom, a military appreciation event held each year at the Milwaukee County Zoo on October 12, 2012.
|Kelly Rindfleisch||Walker’s former Deputy Chief of Staff to Scott Walker, personal 2012 campaign fundraiser and former policy analyst for Scott Walker. Her office, which was 25 feet from Walker’s County Executive office, used illegal secret email network set up by Tim Russell and illegally sent more than 1,000 campaign emails and also running fundraising operation for Brett Davis illegally.||UPDATE:Rindfleisch agreed to plead guilty to four felony counts of illegally campaigning on state time and was sentenced to serve six months in jail and three years of probation.
Four felony counts of misconduct in public office. Each charge is a Class I felony punishable by fines of not more than $10,000 and/or up to 3.5 years in jail for each count.
|Darlene Wink||Wink, who also served as first vice chair of the Milwaukee County GOP and raised money for Milwaukee County executive Scott Walker while Walker’s constituent services manager, is alleged to have drafted and sent press releases for the Republican Party of Milwaukee County, done phone banking for Walker’s campaign and other matters relating to the county GOP at Walker’s County Executive office. All of these efforts were done using the illegal secret email network set up by Tim Russell.||Wink faces two misdemeanor counts each carry penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.Wink’s work computer was confiscated by the FBI. She (as well as Kelly Rindfleisch) used laptop computers that they brought into the office and used the illegal wireless email network to transmit illegal activities.
UPDATE: Darlene Wink pleaded guilty February 7 to two misdemeanor charges of fundraising in the courthouse for then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s campaign for governor. Wink agreed to provide information to prosecutors as part of a plea deal.
January 10, 2013 – Got a one year probation with plea deal.
|Andrew Jensen, Jr.||Jensen is a commercial real estate broker with Boerke Co. and a past president of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin. Campaign finance records show Jensen made more than $800 in donations to the Walker campaign. Records show Jensen and other Boerke personnel have made more than $12,000 in campaign contributions to Walker.||Jensen has big connections with Walker’s personal law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich, which employs the attorney for Walker’s campaign and Reince Priebus, a key Walker backer who is now on leave from the firm to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee. He was was arrested for failing to cooperate with the John Doe investigation in December, 2011.|
|Reince Priebus||Darlene Wink emailed Priebus to see if the Walker campaign could get former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to attend the fundraiser. Priebus is also part of the Koch Brothers operation “Americans for Prosperity”, which has been very involved in Walker’s extremist agenda that is leading to recall elections as well as “voter caging” during the 2010 election cycle.||Priebus could be linked to the secret email network set up in Walker’s County Executive office. Investigations continue on that front.Priebus is the current chairman of the National Republican Party. This could change quickly.|
|William Gardner||Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. and a major donor to Walker. Mr. Gardner was convicted of the largest campaign finance violation in Wisconsin history where he illegally allocated $43,000 to the Friends of Scott Walker by asking his employees to contribute tens of thousands of dollars.||Charged with two felony counts of excessive/unlawful political contributions. Each count is a Class I felony and carries a find of up to $10,000 and/or up to 3.5 years in prison. Sentenced to two years’ probation in July after pleading guilty to two felonies for exceeding campaign contribution limits to Walker’s campaign and laundering additional campaign contributions through employees and associates.|
|Keith Gilkes||Gilkes, Walker’s Chief of Staff, resigned on October 8, which paid him $112,000-per-year. He previously served as campaign manager during the Governor’s race in 2009-10. He worked for the Wisconsin State Legislature as a policy advisor in the State Senate. He had exchanged over 1,000 emails using the secret email system in Walker’s County Executve office.||While Chief of Staff, Gilkes had recommended a job for Sen. Randy Hopper’s girlfriend, Valerie Cass, who was hired Feb. 7 as a communications specialist with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. Additionally, he recommended Brian Deschane, a college dropout who was the son of a Walker political contributor.|
|Cullen Werwie||Werwie worked for the campaign of former Republican State Rep. Brett Davis, who was defeated in the September 2010 Republican Lt. Governor primary. Werwie then worked deputy communications director for Walker’s gubernatorial campaign. Werwie is the governor’s current Communications Director..||Werwie has been granted prosecutorial immunity in the ongoing John Doe investigation on April 14. He was doing communications with the Walker for Governor campaign with staffers using the secret email network.|
|Joe Fadness||Fadness is the operations manager for Friends of Scott Walker. He and Darlene Wink exchanged emails, Internet chat sessions and phone calls during county time, which is illegal at Walker’s Milwaukee County administrative offices.||There are calls for Fadness to resign due to his knowledge of illegal campaign activity related to the John Doe investigation.|
|Brett Davis||Kelly Rindfleisch did fundraising for Davis, who Walker supported for lieutenant governor until he lost in the September 2010 GOP primary, from her office while working for Scott Walker.||Kelly Rindfleisch sent Davis over 300 emails using the secret email network.|
|Rose Ann Dieck||Dieck is a retired teacher and Milwaukee County Republican party activist who has raised money for Walker’s campaigns since 2005.||Dieck was granted immunity in the John Doe investigation.|
|Kenneth Lucht||Lucht is a lobbyist and spokesperson for the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. He works for William Gardner, who at the time was the president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, who charged with two felony counts of excessive/unlawful political contributions.||Lucht was granted immunity in the John Doe investigation on January 14, 2011.|
|Fran McLaughlin||McLaughlin was Director of Communications for Scott Walker when he was County Executive and had her office next door to where the secret email network was set up.||McLaughlin’s office contained scant documents after Walker’s Milwaukee County office was vacated and many records were shredded or missing.|
|Steven Kreklow||Kreklow was Fiscal & Budget Administrator working with Walker when he was Milwaukee County Executive. He also was the author of the 2010 and 2011 budget.||When crunching the numbers for Walker for the Wisconsin budget, Kreklow admitted that the deficit was only one third the number of what Walker has been reporting.|
|Cynthia Archer||Archer served as the head of the Milwaukee County Department of Administration when Walker was County Executive and served on Walker’s Waste Fraud and Abuse Commission and legislative liaison at the Department of Children and Families.||Archer’s work computer was confiscated by the FBI. A FBI spokesman Leonard Peace declined to comment, referring calls to Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern, who also declined to comment.|
|Tom Nardelli||Nardelli was Walker’s chief of staff when Walker was Milwaukee County executive. Nardelli told prosecutors that about $11,000 seemed to be missing from the annual Operation Freedom event at the Milwaukee County Zoo designed to honor military families.||Nardelli abruptly quit as his $90,000 a year job as administrator for the state Division of Environmental and Regulatory Services on July 21. He said all Walker’s Milwaukee County office records were saved or disposed of properly, although there were many records that had been shredded and office drawers were empty.|
|Jim Hiller||Hiller, in real estate for 21 years, was Walker’s campaign treasurer for 18 years and on Walker’s transition team as he became governor.||Hiller suddenly quit his position as Walker’s treasurer and was replaced by Kate Lind on May 13.|
|Bob Nenno||Nenno was Deputy Director of Communications when Walker was Milwaukee County executive. Nenno also worked as a reporter for WTMJ-TV.||When asked about how many other Walker aides were getting their computers confiscated by authorities, Nenno cryptically said “I have been told to refer you to the DA’s office.”|
|Jim Villa||Villa was Walker’s Chief of Staff when he was in the state legislature. He returned to the Chief of Staff position when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive and was gearing up for his first attempt at running for governor.||Kelly Rindfleisch, in order to be a public employee in Milwaukee County with the required residence within the county, used Villa’s address to satisfy the requirement.|
|Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen||Current Republican Attorney General and Walker ally who had participated in other John Doe investigations chose not to assist with the investigation of Walker’s former county staffers.||Van Hollen continues to not want to get involved in the expanding John Doe investigation, probably due to being more interested in the Republican Party than doing his job.|
Many of the sources are combined from the Wisconsin State Journal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other news sources. It’s just a matter of time when the “smoking gun” leads to Scott Walker knwoing what was going on. It’s just a matter of justice.
This evidence, seen on several blogs looking at the FBI investigation, may indeed be the beginning of showing actual proof that Walker did know “about the laptops” that were being used for illegal campaign fundraising and other crimes at the Milwaukee County office.