Friday, September 28, 2007

Ziegler Plot Thickens

State Judicial Commission chief Jim Alexander was understandably defensive when the three-judge panel that is reviewing the commission's work on the Annette Ziegler ethics case issued an order Wednesday that expands the scope of the Ziegler probe and questions why the Judicial Commission apparently left stones unturned.

"You can rest assured the matter was thoroughly investigated," Alexander told reporters. Reading the order, it doesn't sound like the three judges on the special Judicial Conduct Panel are convinced.

The panel of judges is reviewing the case before making a recommendation to the state Supreme Court, which will have the final say on what, if any, punishment Ziegler receives. The panel has scheduled a public hearing on the case for November 19, and in preparation for that hearing the judges have given the Judicial Commission and attorneys for Ziegler three weeks to provide answers to their many questions about Ziegler's finances, her handling of cases as a circuit court judge, what facts the commission knew about and which facts it relied upon to recommend Ziegler be reprimanded, and the timing of Ziegler's admission that she engaged in judicial misconduct.

While all the questions being raised by the three-judge panel are important ones, it's the question about the timing of her admission that is most critical. While the others largely aim at establishing the facts and determining what Ziegler did or did not do and what the commission did or did not do, the timing question cuts to the issue of Ziegler's forthrightness and whether she deceived voters by being less than forthcoming before the election about the seriousness of her ethical missteps.

Before the April election, Ziegler repeatedly danced around the question of whether she had violated the state judicial ethics code and only insisted there was "no scandal." After the election, she admitted she broke the rules.

It remains to be seen what Ziegler's fate will be. But one thing already is clear. This whole episode does not reflect favorably on the Judicial Commission. The commission operates in obscurity, like a scout teamer on a football squad who never gets on the field during games. The Ziegler ethics probe was the commission's rare chance to perform with the lights on and a big crowd watching.

The commission finally was put in the game and got to carry the ball. It fumbled.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like to respond to your comments regarding CWA Local 4611 President Mike Goebel’s role in the current debate over proposed video legislation in Wisconsin. First, Mike is far from a “shill” for AT&T. Mike was asked by, and is working on behalf of, the Communications Workers of America and the CWA members in the State of Wisconsin for passage of the current video legislation that is being considered by the State Senate. The Assembly passed the legislation earlier this year. The legislation is very important to the Communications Workers of America as it continues to strive for new job creation and increased economic investment by AT&T in Wisconsin. This bill, if passed will bring new union jobs to the state, while giving consumers a choice in selecting their video provider. Similar bills have already been passed in other Midwestern states, namely Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. AT&T has already announced the planned investment of millions of dollars in these states to expand and upgrade the infrastructure to provide these services. This translates to jobs in these states. In contrast, in Tennessee, where video legislation was not passed, AT&T has moved money that could have been invested there into states that support growth, competition and expansion. The truth is, Wisconsin competes with all these states for economic investment. It is already behind in luring new investment due to the delay in enacting enabling legislation such as that being considered. If this legislation does not pass, an opportunity for new job growth in Wisconsin could well go the way of other less progressive areas.

Let me assure you, Mike is representing the views of the Communications Workers of America as he works for passage of the bill. This bill is fully supported by the CWA National Union and Mike is doing great work for the members of CWA that work for AT&T in Wisconsin. He should be praised rather than castigated for his work, and his Local should be proud of his efforts and dedication to the Union.

My name is Ron Honse, and I am currently the Communications Workers of America Legislative Political Coordinator for the State of Wisconsin.

Ron Honse, Wisconsin Political Coordinator
Communications Workers of America District 4