WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Settlement talks under way for fired state employees
MADISON - Settlement talks are underway between the state and a Justice supervisor fired for not keeping up with growing tips about online child sexual exploitation.
The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission said former Milwaukee office supervisor Willie Brantley was supposed to have a hearing on his dismissal today. However, a commission lawyer tells the Journal Sentinel it's been held back due to the settlement talks. Brantley's attorney and the Justice Department had not commented on the matter as of early afternoon. Brantley and Milwaukee special agent Anna King were let go in March, after questions were raised about a lack of timely investigations into three child porn suspects. The Journal Sentinel said at least 43 tips about suspected child porn were held for over four months before they were investigated -- and some of those cases took years to handle. The Wisconsin State Journal later found that tips about child sexploitation tripled in 2012, while the numbers of investigators for those cases stayed the same.
It appears that Green Bay Preble High School might not be ready in time for the start of fall classes, after a fire last Friday morning. The Paul Davis National restoration firm has had over 100 people working on the building since Friday -- and they're not certain about everything that has been repaired and cleaned up. A company spokesman tells WLUK-TV that smoke and soot traveled through the entire school -- and some spots will be harder to clean up than others. Night crews will start working on Wednesday at Preble, where fall classes are scheduled to begin September second. The blaze caused major damage in the school's 14-year-old field-house.
Milwaukee Police said today that a man shot-and-killed on the city's south side was 31-year-old Michael Burr. The shooting occurred around 8:50 last night on West Harrison Avenue. Police said there were no suspects in custody as of mid-day, and an investigation continues.
Wisconsin remains among the cheapest places to operate a car. A new survey from Bankrate.com shows that the average Wisconsinite pays $2,018 dollars a year for repairs, insurance, and gasoline. That's nine-percent less than the national average of just over $2,200 dollars. Low insurance rates are what make our state cheaper than most. Bankrate says Wisconsin premiums are about $658 a year on average -- the third-lowest in the nation. We're also spending just $329 a year on car repairs, and a little over a-thousand a year on gasoline. Wyoming, with one of the nation's smallest populations, has the biggest operational costs at just over $2,700 a year. That's due mainly to higher gas usage. Neighboring Iowa is the cheapest, at $1,900 -- mainly because it has the nation's lowest insurance rates.
An 18-year-old man accused killing of an innocent girl in crossfire at a Milwaukee school playground was charged today with reckless homicide. Eighteen-year-old Sylvester Lewis pleaded innocent to that count, plus reckless endangerment and illegal firearm possession. Prosecutors upgraded the homicide count from reckless injury, after ten-year-old Sierra Guyton died July 13th -- almost two months after she was shot. Police said Sierra and her sister Kiara were playing at the Clarke Street school grounds on Milwaukee's north side when a bullet just barely flew by Lewis during a confrontation with others. The alleged original shooter, 28-year-old Jamey Jackson, is charged with illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Lewis is still scheduled to go on trial November third. Pre-trial requests will be heard October second.
Racine had one-and-a-half inches of rain overnight -- and don't be surprised to see similar downpours elsewhere in Wisconsin between now and tomorrow morning. The National Weather Service has not posted any severe weather watches or warnings as of early afternoon. Forecasters did say isolated heavy rains were possible, especially in the eastern half of the Badger State. The Weather Service said a humid and unstable air mass was going through Wisconsin today -- and once the storms clear out late tonight, a Canadian cold front will bring us dry and somewhat cooler temperatures the rest of the week. Precipitation chances will return this coming weekend.
Authorities now say that a 16-year-old who drove an SUV in a crash that killed two children near Wausau did not have a driver's license. Marathon County sheriff's deputies say they're still investigating that. Officials said the unit veered off Highway 52 on Friday morning, and rolled over about 12 miles northeast of Wausau. Deputies confirmed today that 12-year-old Reighlee Stevenson of Oshkosh and 12-year-old Deserae Landowski of Wausau were killed in the crash. Friends and relatives have started online fund-raising efforts to cover the victims' funeral services. As of noon today, almost half of the eight-thousand dollars sought for Reighlee's expenses had been pledged on her "Go Fund Me" page. The other girl was not named on her "Go Fund Me" page, but a family member still raised just over $700 as of late morning. One of the eight people injured was still in critical condition at a Marshfield hospital at last word. The others were treated and sent home. A candlelight vigil for the victims is set for tonight in downtown Wausau.
A suburban Milwaukee trucking and logistics firm is about to get a lot bigger. Road-Runner Transportation Systems of Cudahy said today it would buy the Active Aero Group of Belleville Michigan for $115-million. The deal was expected to be finalized by the end of September, and improve Road-Runner's earnings in the final quarter of 2014. The purchase will move Road-Runner into the air cargo business. Active Aero has a fleet of jets that make rapid deliveries for large manufacturing companies. Media reports said Road-Runner does not own many of its own trucks, and most of the firm's 3,500 drivers are independent contractors. Road-Runner made a net profit of 50-million dollars last year, up from $37.5 million the previous year. It bought two logistics firms earlier this year.
University of Wisconsin men's basketball coach Bo Ryan will be the next celebrity to film a TV commercial to boost the state's tourism. More details are expected on Wednesday during a news conference. The ad is expected to be shown in the summer of next year. Jim Abrahams and David-and-Jerry Zucker will direct the ad that features one of this year's NCAA Final Four head coaches. In an ad this summer, the directors spoofed the movie "Airplane" by featuring two of its stars, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Hays. The Zuckers have also done a Wisconsin tourism ad featuring Packers' receiver Jordy Nelson.
Officials in the Appleton area expect to house 75 more refugees next year from conflict zones like Iraq and the Congo. The World Relief-Fox Valley group helped 25 refugees re-settle in Appleton since January, and 50 more are expected by the end of the year. That's on top of the 75 due in next year. Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna says the initial transition has gone smoothly, and he's proud of the local efforts to help the refugees with necessary living items for their new apartments. The refugees get health screenings, literacy lessons, and job training upon their arrival. The Appleton contingent was part of a national effort to take in 70,000 refugees around the country for the second straight year.
It was five years ago today when a girl left her family's home in Antigo -- and her family never saw her again. Tonight, an annual candlelight vigil and balloon release is planned to call people's attention to the disappearance of Kayla Berg. She was 15 when a man picked her up from her family’s home on August 11th of 2009. According to news reports at the time, the two apparently smoked marijuana before he dropped her off at a home in Wausau – where she was last seen while expecting to meet another friend. The first man was arrested, and authorities hoped it would uncover the girl’s whereabouts, but it didn't.
Charges were pending at last word against a 70-year-old man who allegedly pointed a gun at groups of young inner-tubers in far northeast Wisconsin. Florence County sheriff's deputies said the man was said to be standing on the shore of the Pine River on Saturday. While pointing his shotgun at one tubing group, he reportedly said the river belongs to him, and he's the "King of America." SWAT teams from Marinette and Oneida counties helped arrest the man, and removed five groups of tubers from the river. Officials said they confiscated a loaded shotgun, a loaded rifle, and 280 rounds of ammunition. He was in the Florence County Jail at last word.