- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Restrictions in Wisconsin’s civil service system forced labor officials to recommend discipline short of firing for two state workers for having sex on state time in state facilities, Gov. Scott Walker’s office said Friday as more details of the couple’s affair came to light.

The governor has cited the railroad commission workers as a justification for a measure that would overhaul the civil service system. He has said existing rules kept state managers from firing the employees but hasn’t elaborated.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained records Thursday from the Public Service Commission, which handles administrative matters for the railroad commission, detailing the investigation into the affair. The commission released the documents to other media outlets Friday afternoon. The records show no one pushed to fire or discipline Elizabeth Piliouras and Doug Wood beyond letters of reprimand.

Asked about the records, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in an email Friday that the Office of State Employment Relations was bound by precedent under the civil service rules to recommend discipline short of termination.

However, state law says employees can be fired for just cause. Office of State Employment Relations officials didn’t respond to an email inquiring about why the agency didn’t recommend the workers be terminated. Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale, who made the final disciplinary decisions, also didn’t return a message.

According to the records, Piliouras, a railroad commission project employee, and Wood, the commission’s attorney, met for sex in the PSC’s Madison headquarters after hours, in the building parking lot and behind the building in 2011. They also exchanged graphic messages on the state email system.

A summary concludes the pair misused state property and the state email system, and made other employees uncomfortable. The summary noted that employees who commit such offenses would typically get a warning or reprimand letter. Plale issued both of them reprimand letters on Nov. 30, 2011.

The summary doesn’t indicate who wrote it. Plale, though, told the Journal Sentinel he kept the punishment to a reprimand per Office of State Employment Relations recommendations.

The records also show that Plale revised the reprimand letters to remove allegations of ethics violations after Wood and Piliouras argued their transgressions were of a personal nature. He removed the reprimand letters from their files in 2014.

Piliouras worked as an aide in the state Senate when Plale was a Democratic senator. She worked for another Democratic senator. Plale told the Journal Sentinel he didn’t know her well before he became railroad commissioner and she hadn’t helped with his campaigns.

She left the railroad commission in mid-2012, the records indicate. She didn’t immediately respond to a message left on what appears to be her Facebook page. Wood still works for the agency and serves as an alderman in Monona. He didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment Friday.

The bill Walker is championing would make sweeping changes to state employment rules, including speeding up the hiring process, eliminating application exams, creating merit bonuses and defining just cause for discipline. The Assembly has passed the measure; the Senate hasn’t voted on it.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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