- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Sex in a state conference room. Watching porn on a state computer for hours every day. A short-order cook gets the top score on a state hiring test for financial examiners without any formal training.

Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers have been quick with stories of misbehaving state employees to help justify legislation that would overhaul Wisconsin’s 100-year-old hiring and firing system. But they haven’t offered much to substantiate the stories or explain how those few examples justify overhauling rules covering 30,000 workers. Officials with Walker’s administration said Friday they’re pulling together more details about each anecdote, but much remained unknown as the weekend approached.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, plan to introduce a bill next week that would rework the state’s civil service system. The measure would eliminate a mandated civil service exam, do away with bumping rights that protect more experienced workers from losing their jobs and define just cause for termination. Minority Democrats and unions representing the workers have said the plan will open the door for political cronyism.

Steineke and Roth say they want to streamline hiring so state agencies can react more quickly as baby boomer employees retire in the coming years. The two of them, along with Walker, also have been using about a half-dozen anecdotes to illustrate shortcomings in the current system.

The stories include:



-Two state employees were caught having sex in a conference room but escaped being fired.

-A Department of Natural Resources worker watched porn for four hours a day but wasn’t fired.

-A Department of Revenue employee under investigation for theft fled to Canada but couldn’t be fired until missing five straight days of work.

-A Corrections officer was fired for viewing pornography but was reinstated by an arbiter.

-A short-order cook earned the top score on his exam for a financial examiner position at the Department of Financial Institutions despite having no experience in financial management. The cook fell flat in an interview and didn’t get the job.

A Public Service Commission spokeswoman said the sex incident took place at that agency in 2011 and the Office of State Employment Relations recommended disciplinary action short of termination. She declined further comment.

A DNR spokesman didn’t return messages.

Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said that in October 2012 an employee named Ronald Janz went missing for days. An ensuing investigation revealed Janz had fled to Canada and had stolen $1,350 from the agency that was supposed to go to a taxpayer.

He was subsequently fired in mid-November; his termination letter noted that he had not reported for work for more than five straight days, which under state law is considered resigning. Marquis said the agency didn’t move to fire him immediately because there was some speculation he was a missing person.

Janz was charged in 2013 with theft and remains a fugitive, Marquis said.

Corrections spokesman Joy Staab said the agency fired the employee who was viewing pornography in 2004 but an arbitrator reinstated the worker in 2005 with full back pay. She said the employee was spending more than four hours per day watching pornography, raising questions about whether Republicans have confused that worker with the DNR employee.

DFI spokesman George Althoff said the incident with the short-order cook took place in 2013. The agency was required to interview the cook because of the high test score but it became clear during the interview he wasn’t qualified.

“Yet we still had to handle the interview in the same way as someone with a degree in accounting,” Althoff said. “It slowed down the process.”

According to the Wisconsin Human Resources Handbook, hiring supervisors can screen candidates to learn more about them in areas that weren’t covered by the exam. Based on the candidates’ response, agencies can decide who’s eligible for an interview.

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