Top Walker aide moving to jobs agency (UPDATE)
By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker is moving his deputy chief of staff into the No. 2 position at Wisconsin’s premiere economic development agency in an attempt to improve communication and recover from a flubbed tax break offer to a company bidding on a $15 million state contract.
Walker announced Wednesday that Ryan Murray would become chief operation officer at the year-old, semi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., starting July 30. Murray, 30, will be second-in-command to Paul Jadin, the chief executive officer at WEDC. Republican state Sen. Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee will replace Murray on Walker’s administration as deputy chief of staff.
The agency has come under fire after it was revealed last month that Jadin offered, then rescinded, tax credits to Stevens Point-based company Skyward, contingent on it winning a bid to run a new statewide information system for schools.
Murray’s move is meant to refocus on Walker’s job-creation efforts while also improving communication, said Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie.
“It’s not just a Skyward thing,” Werwie said. “It’s a need to improve agency communication, not just with our office but other agencies.”
Murray was promoted as Walker’s deputy chief of staff in September after serving as the governor’s policy and legislative director. He also worked as Walker’s 2010 campaign policy director.
Murray was in a meeting Wednesday and not immediately available to comment.
Werwie said the move was one of several staff changes planned in the wake of Walker’s recall victory on June 5, which came just 18 months into his term.
Murray will be replacing WEDC’s current chief operating officer, Mike Klonsinski, who will become chief financial officer. Eric Schroeder, the current chief financial officer, is leaving WEDC for the private sector.
Murray will earn $105,000 in his new position, up from the $103,000 he made for Walker. His predecessor earned $109,500.
The Skyward tax incentive offer was an embarrassment both for the fledgling WEDC and Walker. The governor was copied in on the letter that extended the contingency offer in March, but Walker said he never received it.
Jadin said it was the practice at WEDC and its predecessor, the Department of Commerce, not to send such correspondence to the governor.
Jadin has said he was confident the offer was legal, but when Walker found out about it shortly after his recall win, he suspended the bid process and the tax break offer was rescinded.
Skyward, which has contracts with 220 of Wisconsin’s 424 school districts to provide information systems, has threatened to leave the state if it doesn’t get the contract. The company was allowed to submit bids once the process was restarted.
Bids were due on July 10, and the Department of Administration has not announced which companies bid on the project.
Walker said at a WEDC board meeting last month that no such offers will be made to companies bidding on state projects again. He said WEDC will also ask companies it is negotiating with to sign a document saying they are not bidding, or planning to bid, on state projects.
Jadin admitted last month that there was a breakdown in communication with the governor.
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