State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has asked Madison and Dane County leaders for records of their communications with Kraft Heinz officials — the latest round in a blame game between elected officials for the planned closure of Madison’s Oscar Mayer plant.
Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a Tuesday news release that he asked the offices of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi to produce the records.
Fitzgerald also pointed a finger at Soglin for the Kraft Heinz announcement that it will shutter the Madison Oscar Mayer plant, which employs 1,000 workers and is a century-old fixture on the city’s East Side.
“The closure of the Oscar (Mayer) facility took place in the City of Madison under Mayor Soglin’s watch,” Fitzgerald said in the release. “His misguided attempts to shift blame onto (the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.) or other state business groups are no more than a smokescreen to disguise his office’s culpability.”
Soglin, in a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal, said he expects to hold a press conference Thursday to discuss the matter.
“Sen. Fitzgerald is going to have to do better in terms of explaining” his handling of the matter, Soglin said.
The State Journal reported last week that WEDC did not contact Kraft Heinz after learning other states wanted to lure its facilities out of Wisconsin, after being dissuaded from doing so by an executive of the state chamber of commerce, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
Soglin, responding to the report last week, slammed WEDC and WMC for their response. He said the Legislature should investigate why WEDC didn’t reach out to Kraft Heinz after the company’s merger with Oscar Mayer was announced in March.
Soglin said last week his office contacted Oscar Mayer on March 30 based on his “instinct” that the Kraft Heinz merger, announced earlier in March, could result in layoffs and plant closures. He met with company officials on July 29, before the company’s August announcement of an initial round of 165 layoffs at the Madison plant.
Fitzgerald said Tuesday those entreaties raise more questions about what Soglin knew and how he responded.
“If the Mayor did have advance knowledge of changes at the Madison location as he has suggested, the city’s residents deserve an explanation as to why no action was taken,” Fitzgerald said in the statement.
Speaking in November after the plant closure was announced, Soglin said he told Oscar Mayer executives in August that city resources were available, but the company never sought assistance.