Findings from TUA’s pension project on Shawano County, Wisconsin, are featured in this story from the Shawano Leader.
The leader of a Chicago-based organization claims Shawano County Administrative Coordinator Tom Madsen is withholding public records. Madsen says a spam filter is to blame.
Jim Tobin, president of the Taxpayers United Alliance (TUA), said in a news conference this week that Madsen has engaged in a series of stalls following the organization’s request for county employee salary and pension information.
“Thomas Madsen of the Shawano County administrative office has refused to provide the salaries for county employees in a series of stalls and excuses, designed to make us give up,” Tobin said Monday at the Shawano School District annual meeting.
Madsen initially said Tobin’s claims were “patently false,” but has since blamed the county’s spam filter for blocking some of the group’s emails.
“I think it’s grandstanding,” Madsen said Wednesday. “He picked the meeting of the Shawano School Board (to hold a news conference), so he had a captive audience. He decided he was going to throw a match on a can of gas.”
Madsen said he found out later Wednesday that the email servers had tagged several of the TUA emails as spam and blocked them. He said on Thursday the county’s technicians have fixed the problem.
The information Tobin seeks was to have been part of a report TUA released Monday showing public employee salaries and benefits, along with estimates on what they would earn from their pensions once they retire. Tobin released the group’s assumptions on employee pensions for the city of Shawano and the Shawano School District at the same news conference.
Both TUA and the county provided emails between Madsen and TUA’s executive director, Rae Ann McNeilly, that show the process started with a phone call on July 7 by McNeilly requesting all full-time employees’ names, titles, departments they work in and wages for 2012.
Madsen sent an email to McNeilly on July 8 saying that the county would furnish what she had requested, but it would cost the county an estimated $100 to compile the information.
“This is just an estimate,” Madsen wrote. “You will be billed for the actual time it takes to put together the report with the information requested.”
In TUA’s documents furnished to the Leader, McNeilly sent a reply dated July 9 that said, “Please proceed with the open records request. Please advise of the fee and we will forward a check.”
Madsen claimed he did not receive that email or any further correspondence from McNeilly until Aug. 12, when she sent an email asking if Madsen had received the July 9 email and again authorizing that TUA be billed for the cost.
An email from Madsen, also dated Aug. 12, to McNeilly stated that he did not receive her July 9 response, and that he had let the matter go. He again asked if the terms were acceptable and when the county could expect payment, after which he would get the information to her “as soon as possible.”
McNeilly sent a reply on Aug. 13 that she had said the terms were acceptable multiple times and had been anticipating a bill with the final costs.
“If you are now telling me that you will not proceed until a payment has been received, then make that clear with a clear final cost amount, and a remittance process, and quit stalling,” McNeilly wrote. “Do you have the report ready? I would be happy to phone a credit card payment right now or us mail a check, but I would expect in good faith, and having my authorization in writing, 4 times now, that you would provide the data immediately and anticipate receipt of our check.”
Madsen said Wednesday that he never received McNeilly’s Aug. 13 email and was unaware of it until the Leader asked him about it.
After officials checked the spam filter, Madsen sent an email to TUA apologizing for the delays and saying the county would prepare the information requested.
“We will prepare the information and then send an invoice for the cost to prepare. As soon as we receive payment, we will release the information to you,” Madsen wrote. “I apologize for the mix-up even though it appears to have been out of anyone’s control.”
McNeilly told the Leader on Thursday that she hoped Madsen’s statement was genuine, but noted that TUA had previous difficulties getting the same information two years ago, when Frank Pascarella was administrative coordinator.
“I will hope that he’s being forthcoming, and we will finish the deal,” McNeilly said. “If we have to jump through hoops, that’s what we do. That’s what I’m prepared to do. That’s why we’re successful; we don’t back down.”