By Associated Press - Sunday, May 1, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A memo within Gov. Scott Walker’s administration criticized the overhaul of Wisconsin’s civil service system that Walker and Republican lawmakers approved, public records show.

The Wisconsin State Journal ( ) reported Sunday it obtained the document under the state’s open records law. The unsigned memo is dated last October after the bill was introduced.

The memo came from the state Division of Personnel Management, a new human resources agency created by Walker and the Legislature last year. The memo says the overhaul would slow hiring, turn away qualified job applicants and prompt more lawsuits against the state.

Backers argued the measure would streamline and expedite the hiring of state workers. Democrats said the changes would open the door to political cronyism in state agencies.

But the memo undercuts several key contentions from backers of the bill and raises questions about the speed with which legislators planned to pass the measure.

“Even human resources professionals in the state who have a solid understanding of the functioning of the civil service system cannot fully predict the outcomes of these amendments,” the memo said. “Changes of such significance have never been made to the civil service system without being preceded by a study involving subject matter experts.”

The new law, which takes effect July 1, replaces civil service exams with a resume-based system.

The memo questions the bill’s shift to a resume-based hiring system for state employees, saying it will “increase the number of qualified applicants inadvertently turned away and the number of unqualified applicants who inappropriately reach the interview stage.”

It also criticizes the law’s new standard for what is “just cause” to seriously discipline or fire a state worker, saying it is “unclear, limits the agencies in being able to administer discipline and creates the potential for increased litigation.”

Walker’s office initially asked to meet with the State Journal on Friday to discuss the memo but later declined to do so. The office did not answer the newspaper’s emailed questions about whether Walker personally reviewed the document and what, if anything, was done in response to it. Messages sent Sunday to Walker’s press secretary by The Associated Press were not immediately answered.

The bill’s sponsor, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said criticism of major change within state agencies isn’t surprising.

“Any time you’re making changes to agency procedures, there’s almost always pushback,” said Steineke, who said he first read the memo last week when it was provided to him by the State Journal.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, a critic of the civil service changes, called the memo “pretty significant” and said someone in Walker’s office “dropped the ball” by not relaying it to Steineke or other lawmakers.

“The office you just created is telling you this is a bad bill,” Erpenbach said. “It should have raised red flags all over the place, and it didn’t.”

The Division of Personnel Management is a newly created arm of the Department of Administration. Department spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement that “the concerns raised in the memo have been significantly addressed” but declined to explain how or name the author of the memo.

“DPM is now working directly with state agency human resource directors to implement these reforms,” Patrick said.


Information from: Wisconsin State Journal,

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