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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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I'll start this story the way I start all others of this vain: Don't ever, ever let them tell you there's no place left to cut.

Milwaukee County Supervisors Elizabeth Coggs and Toni Clark got caught. They took a trip to Washington for the inauguration and wanted you to pay for it. I'm guessing it wasn't so much that they felt they were entitled, but rather they thought you'd never know.

No one is arguing the trip wasn't "legal." The Supervisors did apparently meet with some contacts in D.C. on official County Business. It's the kind of thing that probably went on a lot more back when the County escaped the scrutiny it now enjoys following the pension scandal.

I don't need to detail here all the financial challenges facing the County in this economy. Everybody knows we're hurting. So you'd think even these "legitimate" meetings that once occurred in person could now be handled via email and telephone. Private companies everywhere are making similar sacrifices, and taxpayers demand as much from our elected officials.  

More outrageous, however, than the fact that they took this trip, is what's come since it was exposed. Enter County Board Chairman Lee Holloway.

His first defense of "signing off" on the trip was that it's not under his authority to disapprove funding requests such as theirs. In other words, if a request falls under the legal guidelines for use of funds, he doesn't have the ability to deny the expenditure.

That may be true. Still... there's a reason you've been elected to a "leadership" position. A leader in that situation may not be able to veto the spending request, but he well could advise against it. Clearly that didn't happen.

Holloway's best act, however, was yet to come. Now he's turned the guns toward two old foes... the media and The County Executive.

In a bizarre letter to the County Exec. Holloway accuses Scott Walker of feeding the story to Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In the letter, Holloway still defends the trip as a "legitimate use of their individual office accounts."

It's tough to believe in light of all the angry taxpayers who've voiced their opposition to this spending that Chairman Holloway chooses still to defend it. Since it's taxpayer money... aren't the taxpayers the ones who ought to decide what "legitimate uses" of it are? It seems they're saying this was not one of them.

All that aside... here's the outrage of outrages. The Chairman's letter essentially says he's not angry with the Supervisors for taking the trip... he's angry that you found out about it. The implication is that Scott Walker (and there's no evidence the story came from him anyway) would be out of line for informing the media about an expenditure of taxpayer money.

Here's the rule of thumb we're all supposed to use in life... if you need to keep your actions a secret... maybe you shouldn't have done what you did. You know, when you were a kid, if you can't tell your mom what you did after school, you shouldn't have been doing it. If a husband can't tell his wife about the "meeting" he had with a female colleague, then maybe that's not a meeting he should take.

If you don't want the taxpayers to know how you're spending their money... maybe you shouldn't be spending it that way.


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