Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Walker DHS keeps on screwing, but J-S covers it up

I wanted to bring a couple of articles to your attention on how the failures continue to roll on at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The first is a follow-up of a story I told you about 3 weeks ago, when the husband of the DHS's top lawyer allegedly tried to kill her, and accused her of having an affair with her boss- DHS Secretary Dennis Smith. Well, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has still refused to mention the story, despite the fact that the husband's case is still moving through the court system. Urban Milwaukee writer Bruce Murphy had seen enough, and decided to call the J-S out for its silence on the story today, and its double-standard in covering these types of situations, depending on who's accused.
The Journal Sentinel buried a tiny story about the murder attempt by a husband who thought his wife was having an affair, but doesn’t mention Dennis Smith. The story is actually by the Associated Press, which may have made the decision to leave Smith out of the story, or it was trimmed by JS editors. Either way, the newspaper chose not to pursue the story.

These kind of stories are always judgement calls by the editors. In the case of Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, the JS pursued him aggressively until Flynn admitted having an affair (though I’m told editor Marty Kaiser reluctantly gave the okay for the story). Yet a year earlier, when it came out that Milwaukee lobbyist Bill Broydrick’s cell phone number was among those on the list of DC Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the JS chose not to report this. Broydrick has top clients in both Wisconsin and nationally, and could have conceivably been doing favors for politicians. WTMJ TV chose to report the story (this was back before the newspaper and its radio and TV stations began working cooperatively on stories).

The result of the JS decision in the Mary Spear situation is that everyone in Madison is talking about a story that almost no one in Milwaukee knows about. Brian Brophy, attorney for Andrew Spear, is blaming the affair for his client’s behavior. “Obviously, his wife’s affair may have led to some bad behavior,” Brophy has said. Brophy’s request to subpoena Mary Spear and question her about the alleged affair during the preliminary hearing was denied.

In short, it’s likely Brophy will emphasize this story if there is a trial, which could bring more publicity. Criminal complaints and legal hearings have always been fair game for the press. Odds are you haven’t heard the last of this story.
No, I don't think it's the last you've heard of it either, and it's worth keeping an eye on not only because of the sex angle, but there's a bigger question as to how Mary Spear REALLY got her big-money, taxpayer-funded job.

Another story the Journal-Sentinel hasn't mentioned yet is the closing of Western Wisconsin's Community Health Partnership. Approximately 360 people could lose their jobs as a result of this move, and the reason it's happening goes directly back to the policies of Dennis Smith and Scott Walker.
The two programs offered by CHP to the state DHS are Family Care, which offers assistance for individuals with functional challenges, and Partnership, which provides both functional and medical services to elderly and disabled individuals. The programs services about 2,700 people in the region, who were notified of the change by a letter from the state DHS.

CHP released a statement Tuesday saying that the agency informed state officials in July that it was not financially viable for CHP to continue offering the Family Care program.

“In early August, CHP received a letter from ... (DHS Secretary) Dennis Smith, stating that they interpreted (CHP’s) follow-up email as a notice that CHP did not want to participate in the Family Care program going forward,” the statement said.

“The letter ... also stated that this would also mean CHP’s operation of the Partnership program would end as of Jan. 1, 2013.”
It makes you wonder if some of this is related to the Walker Administration's jerking around of the Family Care program, which started by having Walker and Smith's DHS limit enrollment in the popular program to cut expenses, and led to the fiasco last December where Walker lied to reporters about his reasons for removng the cap (Remember when Scotty said he was doing it because it was the right thing to do when it turned out the Obama Administration told them to do it or else they'd lose millions in federal funds? Yeah, that screw-up).

Another part of that handling of Family Care involves payments to providers, and Walker and Smith have claimed that they will be able to reach millions in cuts through various "administrative measures." Well, I have little doubt that those administrative measures helped lead to CHP saying that it couldn't go on with the measly amount of money the state was paying it. So itends up going out of business, leaving 2,700 people in the lurch in places such as Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, and River Falls.

Now the state plans to run a competitive bid for these services and should be able to find some providers to continue to allow Family Care recipients to continue to get services, and some of those 360 people currently working at CHP will no doubt continue working for the new provider with a similar job. But there's no promise that the costs won't be higher, along with some painful transitions as the new providers go into place around January 1...and that's if the new vendor is competent and everything goes well in the changeover (which is not a guarantee in these situations).

However, this disruption of services for people in Western Wisconsin doesn't mean much to Scott Walker and Dennis Smith, they just care about the bottom line and the ability to pose behind an allegedly "balanced" budget. And if thousands of Family Care recipients and their families are damaged in the process and the value of services goes down, that's just collateral damage in the bigger picture of advancing right-wing ideology over results.

Hey J-S reporters, these are two big stories about DHS just sitting there for you to look into and expose. That is if you want to start caring about performing a public service and, you know, DOING YOUR JOB.

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