DOJ debates protection for Van HollenMADISON — The state Justice Department is considering sending state agents to protect Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen when he attends the national Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., according to e-mails released Thursday.
By: By TODD RICHMOND/Associated Press Writer, The Daily Telegram
MADISON — The state Justice Department is considering sending state agents to protect Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen when he attends the national Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., according to e-mails released Thursday.
Some officials expressed concern that sending the agents would amount to improperly using state resources at a political event. But others note that activists have been making plans for months to disrupt the September convention.
Local police insist they’ll be ready, but the e-mails show high-level agency officials met in mid-April to discuss using criminal investigators as 24-hour bodyguards for Van Hollen at the convention.
The discussions didn’t sit well with Joell Schigur, then-director of the agency’s public integrity unit.
In an e-mail to Division of Criminal Investigation Administrator Mike Myszewski six days after the meeting, she wrote she was concerned assigning state agents to guard the attorney general at a political event would constitute an illegal use of state resources.
‘‘I am expressing this concern in hopes that this decision will be further evaluated to avoid possible scrutiny of our Attorney General, our agency and our special agents,’’ Schigur wrote.
Myszewski wrote back that he would forward her concerns to his superiors but told Schigur, ‘‘I do not think that an on duty DCI agent who is protecting the Attorney General at a political event, at which certain groups have threatened to violently disrupt, constitutes political activity on the part of an agent.’’
Schigur responded by saying she wasn’t worried about that but whether state agents should be use to protect Van Hollen at a political event where he doesn’t represent the Justice Department. She pointed to criminal charges against former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala for illegally using state resources to campaign.
Deputy Attorney General Raymond Taffora sent an e-mail to Myszewski on Monday saying the use of agents depends on whether they are performing official functions and whether a threat exist. Taffora said DCI needs more information on the threat level as the convention draws near before making a decision.
‘‘It seems premature to make that assessment now,’’ Taffora said. ‘‘An evaluation of the use of state resources where potential harm to a state officer is involved requires legal expertise (applying the law to known facts) and cannot be compared to other fact patterns where use of state resources bears no relation to official functions.’’
Jay Heck, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin, said he can’t see any justification for using tax dollars to protect Van Hollen at a political event.
‘‘If he’s worried about protection, pay for it out of your own campaign,’’ Heck said. ‘‘Otherwise don’t go to the partisan political event. It’s not part of your job.’’
On Wednesday, Myszewski demoted Schigur, who also served as director of DOJ’s Internet crimes against children, financial crimes and computer crimes units as well as public integrity, to special agent in charge.
Justice spokesman Kevin St. John said Schigur didn’t successfully complete her probationary period for the director roles.