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Friday, November 11, 2011

Updated - Sexual Harassment in the Scott Walker Administration?

Manuel “Manny” Perez - Former Wisconsin
Dept. of Workforce Development
(DWD) Secretary
Alleged Inappropriate Conduct at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD)

Silence from Scott Walker Administration on Allegations

Update: In request to a question, employees experiencing retaliation for indicating a hostile workplace on behalf of a fellow employee enjoy an actionable cause of action in a civil rights complaint if she or he is retaliated against.

- via mal

Amid the allegations [denied] of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, come allegations of sexual harassment of a former Walker cabinet official who resigned suddenly in May 2011.

Unlike Herman Cain, Walker administration officials contacted refuse to disavow the allegations, declining an opportunity to knock down a potentially destructive political development just days before the start of the Nov. 15 recall effort against Scott Walker

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Manuel “Manny” Perez announced in early May that he had resigned to pursue new opportunities in the private sector.

New allegations have now come to light that Perez resigned because he sexually harassed or engaged in "inappropriate conduct" with a high-level Wisconsin DWD administrator, Allison Rozek, whom Perez announced had been appointed in late January, according to a DWD employee.

The source refused to be identified by name or position because of expressed concern about the sensitivity of the topic.

 "Yeah, there was harssment going on with Rozek and Perez, but no one knows if a formal complaint was ever lodged on paper," the source said. "It was handled, I think, informally."

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has often been touted by Walker as a premier policy vehicle to creating promised jobs on which Walker campaigned.

But Perez, two Walker spokesmen, including a DWD spokeman, contacted refused to knock down the allegations, ala Herman Cain.

This writer can't buy a, 'this is total bs, no-basis-in-fact' quote.


Contacted by phone Friday, Manuel “Manny” Perez was asked and e-mailed the following questions:

  • Were you contacted by anyone at DWD regarding a workplace complaint regarding Ms Allison Rozek and you during your tenure as DWD Sec?
  • Can you knock down the allegation that Ms Allison Rozek made a workplace complaint that you dealt with during your tenure as DWD Sec?
Perez refused to knock down the allegation of sexual harassment and a workplace complaint, referring this writer to past media statements pointing to opportunities in the private sector and his having accomplished much in a very short period of time in his tenure at the DWD, as the reason he left.

Perez avoided addressing the two questions above asked vocally and by e-mail of him.

His response e-mail received late Friday afternoon reads: "I have already stated publicly the reasons for my leaving DWD," again avoiding the question of whether there was a workface complaint  ... period.


Asked about the alleged harassment through an e-mail, repeated phone calls, and through a receptionist's message, Rozek did not respond to the queries.

No direct communication was ever made with Rozek for this story.

Rozek departed suddenly in late October under circumstances that left a DWD spokesman unable to say whether she resigned or was fired, as was reported in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Rozek reportedly submitted no letter of resignation.

Worth reiterating that if Rozek were a victim, it is hardly upon her to affirmatively proceed to anyone with any allegation. A victim has no legal obligation to bring matters before the state, an employer, or in offenses of a more serious nature, other officials.

Perez’s resignation came in May, some four months after he was appointed to the high-profile post by Gov. Scott Walker.

Perez' story

Perez told the Hispanic News Network that he felt "the time is right to pursue other opportunities in the private sector knowing that the Department of Workforce Development is moving in the right direction and that we have accomplished great things together in a very short period of time."

But the news was widely greeted with groans and disbelief.

Wrote Blogging Blue on May 12: "I can’t wait to hear the real reason why Manny Perez resigned, because I’m betting there’s more to this story than Manny Perez has simply decided he should be 'exploring business opportunities.'"

"The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Perez stated he was escorted out of DWD headquarters on his last day as part of normal procedure to prevent theft by departing executives, but later recanted his account," noted WKOW's Inside Scoop (May 25).

[Updated Note: Perez said to me that the security escort was precipitated as a routine precaution regarding a "bomb threat" that day; in an on-the-record quote.]

Perez being escorted off the work premises by security has been verified by another DWD employee, speaking on background for fear of losing his or her job.

Perez denied the report again Friday, reached by phone.


Shortly after the time of Perez' departure, WKOW's (Madison) Tony Galli asked Perez' successer, Scott Baumbach, if Perez were the subject of a “workplace complaint” prior to his abrupt resignation. The question was deflected in the interveiw: DWD interview.

Galli followed up with another report (May 25), reading in part: "A department of administration spokesperson declined comment Wednesday on whether a workplace complaint was lodged against former secretary of workforce development Manny Perez, before Perez resigned abruptly May 11 after less than five months on the job"

On June 20, 2011 Galli reported, "Department of administration officials said no workplace complaints were lodged against former workforce development secretary Manny Perez before Perez abruptly resigned in May after less than five months on the job."

"In a letter, DOA legal counsel Elisabeth Dieterich told WKOW27 News there’s no record of any complaint in connection to Perez’s workplace conduct."

Walker Administration

An e-mail for this story to the Office of Governor Scott Walker Press Office was referred to the DWD's press office.

"A press release on former Secretary Perez's departure was issued on 5/11/11 statewide and his departure was widely reported in the news media," e-mailed John Dipko, Communications Director of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), and who is a well-regarded pro in the flack business.

Dipko responded to another question on the allegations, writing, "It is not DWD's practice to comment publicy on personnel matters."

To this day, news of Manny Perez' resignation and appointment appears blacked-out by the Walker administration.

As of Thursday evening, not one online press release on this high-profile position regarding Perez' appoitment or resignation exists on the Office of the Governor Media Center, and not online press release exists on the DWD News Releases - 2011, despite a spate of releases on appointments made by Perez after Perez was first hired in January; and Dicko's statement of the press release issued May 11 that does not exist online.

Asked about the lack of acknowledgement of what the WKOW report queried was a “workplace complaint,” the DWD employee said sarcastically, “That’s a shocker. No one [at DWD] is going to want to talk to you about it [sexual harassment allegations].”

The full quote of Gov. Walker's comments on the governor's press release entitled, "Department of Workforce Development Secretary Manny Perez to Return to the Private Sector," reads:

I appreciate Secretary Perez's willingness to serve Wisconsin," said Governor Walker. "The Department of Workforce Development is vital to our mission of creating 250,000 over the next four years. Already we have made important strides; in our first few months in office we have seen more than 24,000 private sector jobs created, including more than 11,000 manufacturing jobs. Recently, CEO magazine recognized Wisconsin as having the most improved business climate in the nation. We’ll work diligently to make sure that DWD's leadership team continues to be able to help our economy grow. Wheeler Report
Questions remain

Why won't anyone in the Walker administration knock this allegation down?

How about a 'this unnamed source has it all wrong.'?

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