By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that he wants to keep a former top aide in his current post rooting out problems in the state’s year-old semi-public economic development agency and to hire someone to temporarily serve as its CEO so that the search for a permanent replacement won’t be rushed.
Walker delivered the news to members of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board at a meeting that came a day after it was reported that WEDC has not been keeping track of $8 million in loans made to 99 businesses.
That is just the latest blow to the agency that Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature created last year to lead job creation efforts in the state. Federal officials recently raised concerns that for eight months WEDC spent nearly $10 million without legal authority. This summer the state had to suspend and then restart bidding on a state contract after WEDC offered one bidder, Skyward of Stevens Point, tax credits if it won the contract.
Democratic state Rep. Peter Barca, a member of the board, said Friday all of the issues were giving the agency a black eye. He suggested that the board should call a special meeting to discuss the ongoing problems, which Walker agreed would be a good idea.
Adding to the turmoil at WEDC, Walker also announced that its chief financial officer, Mike Klosinski, resigned effective the day before the board meeting. Klosinski took over that position in the summer at the same time that Ryan Murray, who was working as Walker’s deputy chief of staff, was brought on board as the WEDC’s second-in-command.
Walker said it made most sense to keep Murray in that position, uncovering problems at the WEDC, and instead hire a temporary CEO so the search for a permanent leader is not rushed. The current head of WEDC, Paul Jadin, is leaving at the end of the month to take a job leading a regional economic development effort based in Madison.
“I think we need to let Ryan continue to work in that area identifying some of the challenges,” Walker said.
Murray said he determined last week that $8 million in state loans had not been tracked since June 2011, the month before the WEDC was created. The agency was still trying to determine how much taxpayers are owed on the largely state-funded loans and how much is past due.
Walker said he wanted to talk in more detail about the appointment process during a closed session meeting of the board.