Wis. gov.'s ex-aide is fined but avoids jail time
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A woman who served as an aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker when he was Milwaukee County's executive was sentenced Thursday to a year of probation for doing campaign work on county time.
Darlene J. Wink, 62, was one of six people who faced criminal charges stemming from a long-running secret investigation. The probe looked into activity by Walker's former aides and associates after Walker, a Republican, became the county executive in May 2010, six months before he was elected governor. Walker has not been charged with wrongdoing.
Wink wrote hundreds of emails related to campaign events, including invitations to a campaign fundraiser, said Bruce Landgraf, the assistant district attorney. He also said she did the work on her personal laptop, which would not have been subject to open-records laws.
Wink pleaded guilty last year to two misdemeanor counts of political solicitation by a public employee. She faced up to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine, but as part of a plea deal Landgraf agreed not to seek prison time.
Landgraf noted that Wink had a clean criminal record and that she also cooperated with prosecutors in two other cases.
"I think it's fair to say Ms. Wink did everything we asked of her," he said.
Landgraf also pointed out that Wink's infraction was far less in scope than that of county worker Kelly Rindfleisch, who was also convicted of doing campaign work on county time. Rindfleisch's activity involved thousands of emails, Landgraf said.
Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail in November after she pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office.
Two other county workers, including Walker's former deputy chief of staff, were convicted of theft; and one donor was found guilty of exceeding state campaign-donation limits and laundering campaign donations. A sixth person, the domestic partner of the former deputy chief of staff, was charged with child enticement, evidence of which was allegedly uncovered while investigating the ex-aide. His trial is scheduled to start Jan. 29.
Wink tearfully apologized to the court, Milwaukee County taxpayers, her family and Walker.
"I realize that what I did was wrong and I apologize for my poor judgment," she said, her voice cracking as she read a brief statement before being sentenced.
Defense attorney Peter Wolff asked the judge to impose a fine and community service but not probation, noting his client's character, cooperation and lack of criminal history.
Judge Daniel Konkol said the transgressions were a "serious matter" that should carry serious consequences. He imposed and stayed a sentence of 120 days in jail, meaning Wink would only serve the jail term if she violates the terms of probation.
He also assessed fines and court costs totaling about $2,000. During her year on probation, Wink is also prohibited from doing any campaign work.
The status of the secret probe, a so-called John Doe investigation, is unclear. Everyone involved, included the targets of the investigation, is prohibited from discussing details. The judge overseeing the investigation said the probe remains open, although sparse court records give little indication that new suspects will be named.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.