Walker proposes to increase number of appointed employees in state governmentLittle-discussed provisions in Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill would greatly increase the number of employees that Walker appointees could hire and fire, deepening his administration's influence within state agencies.
By: By Dee J. Hall, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
Little-discussed provisions in Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill would greatly increase the number of employees that Walker appointees could hire and fire, deepening his administration's influence within state agencies.
The proposals call for converting 37 top agency attorneys, communications officials and legislative liaisons from civil service positions to appointed positions. Currently, agency heads can appoint 70 such positions in departments controlled by the governor, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis of the bill.
David Vergeront, retired chief legal counsel for the Office of State Employment Relations, said the changes would give the Republican governor greater authority to hire, fire and move key employees to carry out his agenda.
"I see it from the standpoint that you want someone that's going to be working with you," Vergeront said.
Vergeront said the downside of appointed positions is that an agency can end up with "yes men" or less qualified employees. On the other hand, it can take months to advertise an opening, test and interview candidates for a civil service position, he said.
Walker's proposal also appears to open the door for further expansion of his administration's appointment authority. The governor has been criticized for a series of measures to consolidate his power, including veto authority over all new state rules.
The fiscal bureau said the budget bill would allow top Walker appointees to request that "any other managerial position" be converted from civil service to appointment. Messages left with the governor's office Monday and Wednesday were not returned.
Dennis Dresang, UW-Madison professor emeritus of political science and public affairs, said Walker's proposals make good management sense.
"An elected chief executive, such as a governor, should have the opportunity to assemble his or her own management team," Dresang said. "This provides for accountability, since the chief executive would not be able to excuse himself or herself from campaign pledges and policy direction by claiming that civil servants not of his or her own choosing are blocking action."
He added that top attorneys, spokespersons and legislative liaisons are "clearly positions where governors should have free reign to hire and fire."
Copyright (c) 2011, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.