In just three years, WEDC has been through as many CEOs, raising questions about why Wisconsin can’t find a serious and experienced economic development expert to lead our recovery.
It only took 24 hours for the second CEO at WEDC to abandon the sinking ship. And following a lengthy and expensive taxpayer-funded nationwide search for a third new leader, Walker gave the job to a political ally who previously served on the board at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and who donated to Walker’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012.
Without question, the never-ending turmoil at the agency responsible for economic development has contributed to Wisconsin’s less-than-robust economic recovery and Scott Walker’s failure to reach his central campaign promise of 250,000 new jobs.
And the failed leadership has trickled down. Just a week after a scathing audit showed that WEDC Corporation failed to follow state laws and properly track taxpayer-funded loans, the state’s chief jobs agency was rocked with yet another scandal as a top official resigned amid controversy over personal debts of nearly $45,000 owed to the State of Wisconsin.
State records obtained by WKOW News 27 show that John Gillespie, hired to serve as WEDC’s Public Information Officer as part of a plan to improve the scandal-plagued agency’s damaged reputation, owes $36,047 in back taxes to the State of Wisconsin, according to the Department of Revenue’s delinquent taxpayer list, and another $7,770 for improperly received unemployment insurance compensation benefits, according to the Department of Workforce Development.
Are top candidates reluctant to take a job with an agency that has been plagued with scandal and allegations of bid-rigging? Are they concerned about taking a job with an agency that has lost track of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds? Perhaps they are reluctant to take a job working alongside an unqualified 20-something political crony of Scott Walker, who has no business or management experience and has never worked in the private sector.
Whatever the case may be, even top Walker administration officials inside WEDC have acknowledged that Walker’s chief job agency “needs to do things differently.”
“Jobs turn over at Walker’s Economic Development Corporation more often than a Vikings quarterback facing Clay Matthews,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Tuesday. “Unfortunately Wisconsin isn’t beating Minnesota on jobs and the economy the same way we do at Lambeau Field. Because as we rank dead last – 10th out of 10 states – in the Midwest on job growth, our neighbors in Minnesota are thriving under real leadership that understands economic growth.”