A top political appointee at the state Department of Natural Resources chose not to send a complaint against an Oconomowoc waste hauler to the Department of Justice for prosecution despite findings by agency staff that the company was treating fields with so much human waste from septic tanks it risked poisoning nearby wells, DNR records show.Hmm, a backbench GOP legislator from the 262 leaves to go to a cushy, higher-paying DNR gig, and then he's instrumental in burying a massive DNR violation against a campaign contributor. I am....Jake's complete lack of surprise.
Scott Gunderson, executive assistant to DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, “made an extra effort” to deal with the complaint internally last year even though the agency’s enforcement staff urged that the case be referred to DOJ, which could have imposed fines of tens of thousands of dollars.
Instead, Gunderson decided to ask district attorneys in Waukesha and Jefferson counties to issue five citations against Herr Environmental and fine the company $4,338 — the minimum forfeiture for the permit violations, which the lead DNR investigator called “among the worst” he’d seen.
Gunderson, a former Republican state representative, received $750 in campaign contributions from the owner of the company, Richard Herr, and Herr’s wife in 2006 and 2008. Last week, Gunderson said he forgot when he agreed to oversee the case that he accepted political contributions from the Herrs, major supporters of Republican campaigns as well as some Democratic candidates. Gunderson said even if he had been aware of the contributions, it would not have influenced his decision.
The case normally would have been assigned to DNR deputy secretary Matt Moroney, who said he handed it to Gunderson because he was acquainted with another officer of Herr Environmental.
But agency records show Moroney, also a political appointee and the former executive director of the Metropolitan Builders of Greater Milwaukee, intervened at least once on behalf of the company prior to his recusal, urging the DNR staff to listen to his friend at Herr Environmental because “he has always been a very straight shooter” and “we all make innocent mistakes.”
But when our college dropout governor appoints another college dropout from the construction industry to head up the agency in charge of our most important natural resources, how can you be surprised by corrupt garbage like this? Or that our governor is so desperate for jobs that he and the Legislature relax legslation allowing acres of wetlands get sold near Lambeau Field to put up a Cabela's- a development that Bass Pro Shops previously turned down because the company felt it would mess up too much of the natural habitat that hunters and fishers find vital.
After reading this story, I don't ever want to hear sqwuak radio shed crocodile tears if the MMSD ever again has to dump some untreated sewage into Lake Michigan during massive rainstorms. Not only because the DNR turned a blind eye to Herr Industries dumping THREE TIMES the allowed amount of human waste into Jefferson County near drinking water wells, but also because Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Exec for 8 years, and didn't take any kind of role in trying to help reconstruct the ancient Milwaukee-area sewer system. Instead, in typical Walker fashion, he sat on his ass, allowed others such as Tom Barrett to try to handle the problem, and then was the first to step up and complain once bad things happened. Sound like a familiar refrain? Walker sitting back and blaming for political gain, but never trying to actually do something that might solve the problems?
Between Walker's willing negligence on the environment, the huge amounts of developer money that has been pumped into the Walker campaign, and the huge increase in appointed positions that this governor has been allowed, corruption and bad outcomes like the DNR letting Herr Industruies skate on polluting Jefferson County are the predictable results. And it only ends if we blow these guys out of power.