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The Wisconsin Veterans Home at King is located in Waupaca County.

PHOTO BY SAIYNA BASHIR

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Daniel Zimmerman, just over one month on the job, has reassigned the head of the troubled King veterans home.

The move comes as the home is being audited by the Legislature and while Gov. Scott Walker, in both his capital budget and biennial budget requests, has asked for more money to improve infrastructure and staffing there.

Zimmerman announced in an email to staff Friday that Jim Knight, commandant at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, would be reassigned to a position as the agency's fiscal compliance auditor, where he will craft the "strategic Veterans Homes plan," according to the letter provided to the Cap Times by the agency.

Knight has been commandant at King since 2013 and earned $111,492 in the job, according to 2015 payroll data from the state Department of Administration. According to that data, there was no previous fiscal auditor position at the agency and it is unclear what Knight will earn in the new position. WDVA spokeswoman Carla Vigue said in an email Saturday morning she would have to get information about the position and how much Knight would be paid.

Knight's move continues a shakeup at the state's veterans agency as several top level administrators have left in the wake of concerns over spending and quality of care at the King veterans home. WDVA Sec. John Scocos announced his resignation in November and left the job in January. His assistant deputy secretary Dan Buttery followed him out a few weeks later. 

Walker has asked for $13 million for water, food and electrical improvements at the Veterans Home at King in his capital budget for 2017-19, following Cap Times reporting showing yellow water there in August. Lead has also been found in the water at King, though at levels safe enough to consume, according to state officials.  

Walker has also requested to shift 7.3 full-time equivalent positions at King from administrative roles to direct care staff for residents in his biennial budget request

He has also requested $2.6 million for operational improvements and equipment costs at all three of the state’s veterans homes, including funding for resident and security maintenance, electronic health care records and increased Medicare therapy for residents.

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The state Department of Administration is also investigating DVA's records custodian, Reid Aaron, for a missing email. The email was not supplied to the Wisconsin State Journal as a part of a records request. WDVA asked the DOA to investigate Reid on Friday, Vigue said. Reid has been placed on administrative leave, Vigue said. 

"The WDVA is committed to a culture that is open, transparent and forthright," Vigue said in an email statement. 

The legislative audit of the home is set to be released sometime this spring. 

 

Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.