Top official at Walker's jobs agency blasts second-in-command in resignation letter

Economic Indicators Associated Press

A vice president at Gov. Scott Walker's job-creation agency who resigned his position in August then changed his mind two days later complained about the competency of the second-in-command, Walker's former deputy chief of staff, documents released to The Associated Press on Monday showed.

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The documents, which include the resignation letter, a response memo, and other internal emails praising the vice president, reveal bitter disagreements among top leaders of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Walker created the quasi-public agency in 2011 to lead job-creation efforts in the state to help him fulfill his promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs.

The agency got off to a rocky start, suffering through a string of departures of top officials and critical audits showing mismanagement. In 2012, Walker assigned his then-deputy chief of staff Ryan Murray to work at the agency as its second-in-command to help root out problems and turn things around.

But Murray's style rubbed Lee Swindall the wrong way.

Swindall, hired as vice president of business and industry development in September 2011, resigned on Aug. 25, blasting Murray in his letter, saying he lacks "either the talent or experience" to hold his position.

Swindall wrote that Murray "is causing deep and lasting harm through the application of control-style management rather than consultative management." Swindall accuses Murray of producing "instability, opposition and resentment in WEDC," adding that he is "too committed to his own consolidated power to either notice or care about the swelling discontent in WEDC."

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Murray declined to comment.

Swindall was persuaded to remain at the agency after meeting with its CEO Reed Hall. Agency spokesman Mark Maley said Swindall continues to report to Murray.

"Leadership is strong at WEDC as we continue to provide and expect a professional work environment," Maley said in an email. "Our organization remains focused on helping companies grow Wisconsin's economy."

But state Rep. Peter Barca, the Democrat Assembly minority leader and also a member of the agency's board, expressed frustration with the news.

"I am disappointed that there continues to be significant leadership problems at WEDC," Barca said in a statement. "Anything that takes away WEDC's focus from creating jobs is deeply troubling."

Murray wrote a scathing memo to Hall on Thursday in which he detailed what he called "frustrations" with Swindall. Those included what Murray said was Swindall's resistance and dissatisfaction with the agency's policies, including state-mandated information technology security training.

Swindall, in an Aug. 20 email to Murray, described being required to watch the training video as an "arbitrary and authoritarian" policy that was being treated like a loyalty pledge.

Swindall, in his letter to Hall rescinding his resignation, sets a number of terms for his return, including not being disciplined for failing to watch the IT security training video.

Murray also said in the memo to Hall that Swindall stayed at hotels in Madison in violation of the agency's policy against staying in hotels in an employee's home-base city. Murray said Swindall also expressed frustration with numerous other policies.

But Murray concedes that Swindall has made significant contributions to the state's economic development efforts, and because of that he welcomed his continued employment at the agency.

According to his biography on agency's website, Swindall has more than 30 years of experience in business development, strategic communications and marketing and public relations. He did not immediately return a telephone message left at his work number after hours Monday.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP