- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s former prisons secretary asked one of Gov. Scott Walker’s top aides to help him get his old Department of Justice administrator job back after he was demoted, sending him a private letter to get around the state’s open records laws, documents show.

Walker appointed Ed Wall as Department of Corrections secretary in 2012, plucking him from his job as DOJ’s criminal investigations administrator. Wall resigned from the prison job on Feb. 5 amid a DOJ investigation into allegations of abuse at the state’s youth prison in Irma.

State law guaranteed Wall could return to his DOJ job after his resignation. DOJ officials placed him back in the criminal investigations administrator position on Feb. 15 but put him on leave pending the outcome of the prison investigation.

The Associated Press, through an open records request, obtained documents that show Deputy Attorney General Andrew Cook sent Wall a letter on March 1 demoting him to deputy secretary of DOJ’s Law Enforcement Services Division. That division runs the state crime labs and provides technical assistance to local police. Cook’s letter also informed Wall that he would remain on leave but keep his pay at $108,000 a year.

Wall sent a letter to the home of Walker’s chief of staff, Rich Zipperer, about a week after the demotion saying he wanted his old job back. He wrote he was demoted because DOJ Senior Paul Connell wanted to keep current criminal investigations administrator Dave Matthews in place and they were trying to push Wall out. He told Zipperer he would “appreciate anything you can do to fix this mess,” noting that Walker mentioned to him that “this is just wrong” and Attorney General Brad Schimel needed to step in.

He noted he didn’t send the letter electronically or to the governor’s office because he understood the administration’s concern over creating public records.

“I know you didn’t want me sending this electronically or to the office because of the records issue,” Wall wrote, “so I elected instead to send it to your home in writing and would ask that you feel free to shred it once you’ve looked it over. Nobody will know that I sent it and this is strictly between you and me.”

Zipperer responded the next day with a letter to Wall written on official state letterhead. He questioned why Wall would send a letter about his DOJ employment problems to the governor’s office and told him to deal with that agency. He also told Wall he mischaracterized how Walker’s administration handles records.

“As a former member of our administration, you understand that we are expected to fully and dutifully follow all public records laws and procedures,” Zipperer wrote. “I have a duty to retain your correspondence as an official record and it will be treated as such.”

Reached by cellphone Friday, Wall declined comment, saying he was getting on a plane and would be traveling all weekend. DOJ spokeswoman Anne Schwartz declined to comment on Wall, saying it was a personnel matter. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick also declined comment.

Wall has drafted an appeal to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission regarding the reassignment. Chief Legal Counsel Peter Davis said the commission hadn’t yet received an appeal from Wall.

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Follow Bryna Godar on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bgodar .

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

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