Walker subpoenaed in former staffer's trial

2012-10-09T06:15:00Z 2013-03-01T13:22:33Z Walker subpoenaed in former staffer's trialDEE J. HALL | Wisconsin State Journal | dhall@madison.com | 608-252-6132 madison.com

Gov. Scott Walker has been subpoenaed to testify next week in the misconduct trial involving one of his former aides in Milwaukee County.

Defense attorney Franklyn Gimbel of Milwaukee late last month issued the summons to appear. It calls for the Republican governor to testify at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 16 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in the trial of Walker's former deputy chief of staff, Kelly Rindfleisch.

Rindfleisch, 43, of Columbus, has been charged with four felony counts of misconduct in public office for alleged illegal campaign work she did in 2010 during Walker's time as Milwaukee County executive.

Walker's office and his campaign declined to answer questions about the governor's upcoming court appearance.

Walker may not be the only high-level state official called to testify. The prosecution has submitted a list of at least 35 potential witnesses, including Walker; former state Rep. Brett Davis, who now runs the state's Medicaid program under Walker; and Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, a fundraiser for Walker's gubernatorial campaign.

The list of other potential state witnesses includes:

• Cullen Werwie, Walker's spokesman and former Davis campaign manager, who has received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

• Keith Gilkes, who was Walker's gubernatorial chief of staff and ran Walker's successful 2010 campaign for governor and 2012 recall campaign.

• Jim Villa, chief of staff for Walker while he was Milwaukee County executive and an adviser to the Friends of Scott Walker campaign.

Six people have been criminally charged in the John Doe investigation being run by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office, including four former aides or appointees of Walker. The governor has repeatedly denied being a target of the wide-reaching probe, which includes allegations of aides doing campaign work while being paid with tax dollars and embezzlement of funds intended to benefit veterans.

The investigation has lasted for more than two years.

Rindfleisch, who also worked as a campaign fundraiser for Walker, started as a policy adviser for him at the county executive's office in early 2010. She was soon promoted to deputy chief of staff. At the same time she worked as a fundraiser for Davis, then a GOP state representative from Oregon running for lieutenant governor.

Prosecutors say Rindfleisch spent "significant time" doing political campaign work for Davis while working for the county. The criminal complaint against her alleges there were 1,380 fundraising emails sent or received by Rindfleisch during normal work hours. Investigators also uncovered about 300 emails between Rindfleisch and Davis and more than 1,000 between her and members of Walker's campaign staff, including spokeswoman Jill Bader and campaign manager Gilkes.

Rindfleisch sought to block use of her private emails in her trial, saying the warrant seeking her personal correspondence was overbroad. That attempt was unsuccessful. Her trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Gimbel said the governor did not attempt to fight the subpoena. The state Constitution prohibits lawmakers from being subpoenaed while the Legislature is in session and for 15 days before and afterward, but there is no such exemption for governors, according to Anne Sappenfield, senior staff attorney for the Legislative Council.

"Some states have statutes that grant immunity to governors so that they cannot be called to testify in legal proceedings — Indiana, for example. But most do not," said Karl Shoemaker, UW-Madison associate professor of history and law. "Any witness retains, of course, the right to refuse to answer questions on grounds recognized under existing law — for example, if testimony is covered by attorney-client privilege, or the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination."

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