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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, March 01, 2007

This is going to blow some minds

by folkbum
UPDATED within!

It'll blow righty minds, that is:
District attorneys around Wisconsin rarely claim sick leave, allowing them to boost their retirement benefits like lawmakers, judges and other state elected officials.

Last year, just one of the 62 district attorneys who get state benefits claimed sick leave, according to records for all but the last three weeks of the year.

Like other state employees, district attorneys may buy health insurance in retirement with unused sick leave. For former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher, in office for 18 years, the benefit is worth over $158,300, more than for any of his peers.
Bucher, of course, is a hero to many of the Charlie Sykes Stormtroopers down here in the Milwaukee Media Market; recall, for example, the Right Cheddarsphere's lauding of Bucher's "crackdown" on vote fraud, a crackdown that consisted of a single plea-bargained case in two decades of District Attorneying. And it's the Charlie Sykes Stormtroopers who have been among those beating the drums loudest for the end to these sorts of accumulated sick-leave bennies for elected officials. Puts them in an awkward spot, I would bet--especially since the anti-Bucher, former Milwaukee County DA E. Michael McCann, has no sick leave benefit at all.

(I have occasionally wondered, though not out loud, of course, why Jessica McBride is the only WTMJ radio talker not to have gone off on sick leave, and now it kind of makes sense: She's married to $160k of sick leave benefits. LATE UPDATE: Oops, I guess she has!)

Look, I've made my case before. I understand that there are people on both sides of the aisle who disagree with me--conservatives who feel the benefit is too much for our budgets and unrealistic compared to the real world of the private sector; and liberals who can't believe lawmakers are willing to perk themselves but won't fix health care for the rest of us.

But the fact is that I have been, and will remain, consistent here: Paul Bucher could probably have made three, four, eight times his DA's salary working in the private sector (the coming years will undoubtedly be his most lucrative now that he's out of public life). If part of what kept him in the job--a job that our conservative friends think he did well--is that he knew he could pay a portion of his health care costs in retirement with accumulated sick leave funds, then that incentive worked, and we kept a solid public figure in office doing work for we the people.

I don't want to ignore the question of whether he legitimately accumulated those days; he might have, I suppose, skirted some of the ethical bounds that compel people to call in sick when they are, in fact, sick. But I don't have enough information to judge whether that really happened and, from my reading of the article, neither does the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. They seem perfectly happy, though, to keep claiming scalps of all ideological stripes in their never-ending war on sick leave benefits.

In the meantime, pass the popcorn--some righty heads may be exploding Thursday. (It's days like this I wish I could listen to Sykes . . . wonder what he'll say?)

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