The two Democratic members of the the board that oversees Gov. Scott Walker's flagship job agency are calling for the organization's CEO to resign.
Citing a list of concerns with the agency and its management, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, on Wednesday called for Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Reed Hall to step down.
Lassa and Barca said they don't believe Hall takes seriously the responsibility tied to a series of scathing audits and damning media reports showing the agency hasn't followed state laws or its own policies and administered a questionable loan without the proper review.
The lawmakers said they've been stonewalled by WEDC staff when they've asked for documents related to that and other unsecured loans, and said they believe even after a Friday afternoon document release, some information is being withheld. They argued that the difficulty in obtaining information is making it difficult to fulfill their responsibilities as board members.
Lassa said it seems "increasingly likely that fraud was committed against taxpayers and WEDC has failed to do anything about it."
Hall has headed the troubled jobs agency since October 2012. Walker converted the Department of Commerce to the the quasi-public WEDC in 2011, shortly after he took office. It was one of the governor's top priorities, touted as a way to spur job growth in Wisconsin.
Spokespeople for WEDC and the governor did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the Democrats' call for Hall's resignation.
Lassa said she believes Hall is an "honorable man," but said the problems plaguing the agency didn't disappear when he assumed leadership.
"In the light of the serious challenges facing the organization, including the appearance of fraud involving a major donor to the governor’s campaign, it is clear that WEDC needs new leadership," Lassa said.
She was referring to an unsecured $500,000 loan to the since-dissolved Building Committee Inc., which was not repaid — even as the company was collapsing.
The loan was given after BCI owner William Minahan donated the maximum $10,000 to Walker's campaign.
"By no means do I want to give the sense that this alone would right the ship at WEDC," Barca said. "However, it's clear to me that we are unable to proceed and get to the bottom of the problems and protect the taxpayer if he were to continue as the CEO of WEDC. To put it simply, I do not have confidence in Reed Hall's ability to lead our state's jobs agency and protect the taxpayers of Wisconsin, and I have no sense that board members will be given all the information needed for us to perform our fiduciary responsibility."
The call for Hall's resignation comes days after Democratic lawmakers also called for an investigation into the agency after WEDC released documents reporting 27 awards totaling $124.4 million that were made with no formal staff review, between July 2011 and June 2013.