- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014
Wisconsin DNR disciplines 26 workers in 2013

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources disciplined employees last year for misusing a state boat, punching a co-worker, watching videos of girls on a state computer and making inappropriate comments, agency records show.

An Associated Press review of DNR disciplinary documents obtained through an open records request found the agency sent 26 letters reprimanding, suspending or terminating employees in 2013. The agency released 25 letters, saying the 26th worker was challenging the release of his or hers.

The discipline letters give sometimes sordid details of errant behavior, but represent less than 1 percent of the agency’s roughly 2,625 employees. The DNR issued 19 letters in 2012 but couldn’t saw how many were disciplined in 2011.

Department of Administration officials said no single state entity tracks disciplinary actions across the nearly 50 state agencies. The Department of Justice disciplined five of its roughly 600 employees last year, or just less than 1 percent.

DNR spokesman Bill Cosh declined to comment on the letters, saying they speak for themselves. Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, who leads the Senate’s natural resources committee, didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

Rep. Al Ott, R-Forest Junction, chairman of the Assembly natural resources committee, said in an email that he’s confident the DNR is “handling any necessary disciplinary action in accordance with agency policy.” He declined further comment.

Employees’ names and positions were edited out of the letters before they were turned over to the AP. DNR Employment Relations Section Chief Amber Passno said in a letter responding to the request that the names weren’t needed to satisfy the public’s interest in knowing whether the agency properly disciplines workers.

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Risser’s anti-cigarette fight dates back 50 years

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - State Sen. Fred Risser has been fighting against cigarettes for more than 50 years, but he says he’s concerned Wisconsin is now taking a step backward with its talk of allowing electronic cigarettes in bars and other public venues.

The Madison Democrat, the longest-serving member of any state legislature in the country, recalls introducing a bill in 1963 that would have barred children under 16 from buying cigarettes. Although the bill failed in committee, it was the beginning of Risser’s long anti-tobacco crusade that helped lead to smoking bans in the state Capitol in 1999 and indoor public places in 2010.

But Risser fears that those gains could be undone by a bill that would exempt electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, from the indoor smoking ban, The Capital Times reported (http://bit.ly/1ibt5kVhttp://bit.ly/1ibt5kV ) in a story published Sunday.

One interest group that registered in support of the bill is RAI Services, formerly known as Reynolds American, one of the largest tobacco companies in the world. Risser said tobacco companies support the bill because they’re trying to reverse the decline in smoking in recent decades.

“It’s nothing more than an effort to increase consumers of smoking,” Risser said. “They’re trying to glamorize the idea of smoking to youth.”

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