The state’s railroad commissioner resigned Monday, a month after state records showed he took minimal disciplinary action against state workers who were having sex in public buildings.

Gov. Scott Walker announced Tuesday he has appointed Yash Wadhwa, an engineer with 44 years of civil, environmental and transportation consulting experience, to take the position effective Jan. 11. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. He replaces Jeff Plale, who resigned effective Monday.

Wadhwa, a Walker political supporter, has worked on infrastructure projects for various municipalities in the Milwaukee area, according to a statement Walker’s office issued. He also served as a board member for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and as president of the Wisconsin Association of Consulting Engineers and the Wisconsin Society of Professional Engineers.

Wadhwa has a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Glendale with his wife, Usha. Wadhwa has given more than $10,000 to Republican state political candidates over the past 20 years, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. That includes nearly $5,000 for Walker during his three gubernatorial runs and recall election.

Plale, a former Democratic state lawmaker from South Milwaukee, was appointed railroad commissioner in 2011. He was unseated in the Senate by then-Milwaukee County Board member Chris Larson. Plale was one of two Democratic state senators who voted against the extension of state employee union contracts in December 2010 before Walker took office, blocking the contracts from taking effect.

Plale’s term as railroad commissioner was set to expire on March 1, 2017.

Last fall, Walker made the case to state lawmakers that proposed changes to the state’s century-old civil service system were necessary in order to streamline hiring and firing decisions.

He used an example of two state employees who were caught having sex in public buildings but weren’t fired.

In December, records revealed Plale had issued the two employees reprimand letters in November 2011. Then in 2014, Plale took the additional step of removing the reprimand letter from at least one of their personnel files.

The records showed no attempts at further discipline. State labor experts said Plale could have considered any discipline including termination, but he appeared to render the lightest possible discipline.

Walker offered no praise for Plale’s service in his announcement Tuesday. In Plale’s resignation letter, released by Walker’s office, he thanked Walker for the opportunity to serve.

“It has been a genuine pleasure serving the citizens of Wisconsin in this capacity,” Plale, 47, wrote. “However, at this point in my life, my family and I feel the need to explore other opportunities.”


Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.