The VA scandal hits close to home
We’ve got some real staffer-on-senator, Republican-on-Democrat violence brewing up in Wisconsin—and it (mercifully) has nothing at all to do with the 2016 presidential cycle.
Senator Tammy Baldwin’s former Deputy State Director has officially filed an ethics complaint against the Wisconsin democrat, accusing the Senator of firing and demoting staffers in an effort to cover up mishandling of a whistleblower complaint about a Wisconsin VA hospital. Marquette Baylor is represented by Kansas City attorney Todd Graves, a former U.S. attorney and advocate for the conservative nonprofit Wisconsin Club for Growth.
The trouble started when a complaint reached Baldwin’s state-based caseworkers about alleged patient abuse at the Tomah VA hospital. According to the whistleblower, patients at Tomah were being prescribed dangerous amounts of prescription narcotics. A later Congressional investigation would show that the patients at Tomah were not only more likely to receive high doses of narcotics, but that three veterans died after receiving treatment there. The investigation also revealed a “culture of fear” that intimidated hospital employees and compromised patient care.
So, Baldwin’s staff fielded the complaint, and if Baylor is to be believed, mishandled it to the point that high level staffers—including Baylor—were demoted or fired to cover up the mess. The complaint also targets Baldwin chief of staff Bill Murat.
From the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
A spokesman for Baldwin responded late Monday by calling the complaint a “political hit job.”
“It’s sad that Marquette Baylor has chosen to be used as a pawn by Senator Baldwin’s right-wing Republican opponents in what is nothing more than political hit job by a ‘go-to Republican firm,'” said John Kraus, communications director for Baldwin.
In a 16-page complaint, Baylor is asking the U.S. Senate Ethics Select Committee to investigate the first-term senator “for making false statements and representations” to cover up the actions by her chief of staff, Bill Murat, and “to protect her political career.”
“Had Murat, as the chief of staff, allowed me and other individuals to properly perform our roles, the issues surrounding the Tomah VA Medical Center would have been identified and addressed long ago,” Baylor said in the complaint drafted by a Republican law firm out of Kansas City.
“By attempting to place the blame at my feet, Senator Baldwin has concealed the truth, made false statements, and mischaracterized my service as deputy state director.”
The complaint accuses Baldwin of acting “unethically” by covering up Murat’s “willful misconduct.”
Here’s the Democrat-hating, right wing shill who filed the complaint, standing toe to toe with her worst enemy:
Tammy Baldwin lashes out at Marquette Baylor as "pawn" of right wing. Pictured here with notorious right-winger pic.twitter.com/WLhHSFMpEn
— Charles Sykes (@SykesCharlie) April 21, 2015
Baldwin’s office is running offense, acknowledging that multiple staffers were punished for their handling of the complaint, but insisting that Baylor was rightfully terminated from her job:
In response, Kraus said the senator dumped Baylor for a number of reasons, not just because of the Tomah VA controversy. Among other things, Kraus said, Baylor was rude and acted inappropriately with constituents and staff.
“Senator Baldwin has taken responsibility for mistakes in her office, including Marquette Baylor’s and others’, and she has taken steps so that these kind of mistakes never happen again,” Kraus said. “She has made it clear that Marquette Baylor was terminated because of long-term issues of poor performance on a range of issues.”
Marc Elias, a high-powered Democratic attorney hired by Baldwin, later released a statement citing a number of factors in Baylor’s firing.
Elias’ firm later conducted an internal review into how Baldwin’s staff handled whistle-blower complaints about overmedication and other problems at the Tomah hospital.
The report found that Baldwin’s constituent services team failed to relay constituent concerns to the office’s top staff. From there, the report said, her senior aides took too long to formulate an “effective response” to the problems.
In response to the review, Baldwin demoted her state director and docked her chief of staff one month’s pay.
Murat, her veteran chief of staff, took a one-time cut of more than $14,000 this year. He earns $169,000 annually.
In addition, Doug Hill lost his job as Baldwin’s state director to become her outreach boss. Hill’s salary will be sliced from $131,300 annually to $80,800 a year — a cut of more than $50,000.
Whatever happened, it was serious—you don’t just dock someone’s pay by 14 grand, and demote your state director, unless something worth talking about happened in your office.
We’ll keep you updated if and when this complaint goes anywhere—and if any more probes are launched into patient care problems at Tomah.
You can read the full complaint here.DONATE
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