Tuesday State News Briefs: Milk still being delivered to SE Wisconsin schools despite Golden Guernsey shutdownWisconsin News
-- Thousands of school students in southeast Wisconsin will keep getting their milk, thanks to some last-minute scrambling after a large dairy plant suddenly closed in Waukesha.
OCONOMOWOC - Thousands of school students in southeast Wisconsin will keep getting their milk, thanks to some last-minute scrambling after a large dairy plant suddenly closed in Waukesha.
Lynn Hiemke of Mapleton Dairy Haulers in Oconomowoc said he worked all weekend, and he secured Kemp’s dairy as a replacement for the 360 schools that his company serves in 40 districts. He said there would be no disruption for the youngsters who have milk with their school meals. The company president later confirmed that the plant had closed. The Golden Guernsey dairy processing plant in Waukesha told its employees on Friday not to report to work on Saturday. Suppliers managed to have Kemps provide milk to the schools, so their service is not interrupted.
State officials are still trying to find out why the Golden Guernsey dairy plant in Waukesha closed on Saturday, with only a day’s notice to just over 100 employees. The state’s plant closing law requires a 60-day notice unless there are emergency circumstances. And the Workforce Development agency says the Los Angeles investment firm that owns the plant had not responded to the state’s inquiries as of yesterday. Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson called the abrupt shutdown “particularly troubling.” He ordered a Rapid Response team to hold sessions in Pewaukee on January 16th and 17th to tell the affected workers what kinds of assistance are available to them. Officials said the workers might be able to recover up to 60 days of pay from the company.
Open Gate Capital of Los Angeles bought the Waukesha dairy plant early last year, after the government ordered Dean Foods to sell it due to anti-trust concerns. Mark Stephenson of the UW-Madison Center for Dairy Profitability said the plant operated in a fiercely competitive industry with thin profit margins. And U.S. milk beverage sales were at their lowest last year since 1984, due to changes in consumer habits and new beverages that include sport drinks. The Golden Guernsey shutdown put about 360 southeast Wisconsin schools in a pickle at first, because they’re required to offer milk as part of the Federal School Lunch Program.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court was expected to rule today on whether Juneau County officials have to provide unedited copies of legal bills to a newspaper in Mauston. The Star-Times asked for the full legal bills in 2010 from an investigation into a county sheriff’s officer. The county’s insurance carrier hired a law firm and paid the attorney fees. The firm released edited documents with information that was blacked out. The Star-Times then sued the county, saying it violated the state Open Records Law. But a circuit judge in Mauston said the legal bills were not public records – and even if they were, the county had the right to black out certain information because of attorney-client privileges. A state appeals court reversed the ruling, saying the entire documents must be released. The county then appealed to the Supreme Court.
A sheriff in northeast Wisconsin said “very poor judgment” was used in making a video of students getting shot outside the Crandon School. Forest County Sheriff John Dennee said there’s no evidence that an attack was planned at the school. But the teen who made the video and put in on You-Tube was still arrested, and faces juvenile delinquency. Dennee said numerous people saw the video and called his department. Officers identified the youngster and searched the person’s home. The search produced no weapons or other evidence. Crandon school officials also reviewed the matter, and found no evidence of a planned attack – and it appeared that no one was in danger.
The son and daughter-in-law of Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble are caught in the middle of the Russian adoption controversy. Jared and Krystal Ribble of Neenah have filed paperwork to adopt eight-year-old Alina, who lives in a Russian orphanage just east of Moscow. But the adoption was held up after Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a new law which bans Americans from adopting Russian children. There have been complaints in the past about U.S. parents abusing kids from Russia. And some have reportedly viewed the ban as retaliation against a new U.S. law which demands sanctions against Russians who are known to violate human rights. The U.S. State Department says Russia has not provided any details on what the ban means for families like the Ribbles, who were in the normally-long adoption process before the ban took effect a week ago. Krystal Ribble tells the Appleton Post-Crescent quote, “I feel like (the girl) is on a chessboard,” and the Russians are “using her for their game. She’s just a child.” The Ribbles are among 70 families with a group called Reece’s Rainbow, to see if they can get their adoptions moving again. Congressman Reid Ribble, a Republican from Sherwood, said he was extremely proud of his son and daughter-in-law, and the compassion and kindness they’re showing.
Wisconsin will continue to have one member on the U.S House Agriculture Committee. Sherwood Republican Reid Ribble was named to the panel right after he was first elected two years ago – and Chairman Frank Lucas recently gave Ribble another two-year term. Ribble led a successful effort to continue the federal safety net for dairy farmers, as part of the bill passed by Congress last week that averted the fiscal cliff. The Milk Income Loss Contract program was supposed to be replaced by a new insurance package in the 2012 Farm Bill that never passed. Ribble said keeping the program in its current form would protect Wisconsin farmers in the event that milk prices drop dramatically and feed costs rise before the next Farm Bill can be approved. He also said it would prevent the so-called “dairy cliff,” in which dairy policy could have reverted back to 1949 levels – and both producer and consumer milk prices could have jumped drastically.
It’s clear that political observers will keep score on what Congressman Paul Ryan and the other possible 2016 presidential candidates do about the nation’s thorniest fiscal matters. The New York Times says Ryan, the U.S. House Budget chairman from Janesville, and fellow Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida have already separated themselves with their opposing votes on the fiscal cliff bill. Ryan voted for the package, a day after Rubio voted against it. It was the first of several major budget-and-deficit reduction votes planned in the next few months – and the Times says each one will have an impact on how the Republican White House field shakes out for 2016. Rubio was one of just eight senators to vote against the package – which included tax increases for the wealthy and steady income tax rates for everyone else. Ryan said he was most interested in making the lower tax rates for most Americans permanent. But Rubio said the measure postpones the need to resolve the nation’s debt crisis, and create jobs for the 23-million unemployed Americans. The Times said Ryan’s supporters believe he cares less about the 2016 election than getting the budget mess straightened out. And they also say Ryan wants to a closer bond with House Speaker John Boehner, as Congress decides on spending cuts and raising the government’s borrowing limit. Boehner voted for the fiscal cliff measure.
A national education reform group gives Wisconsin a grade of “D”-plus for adopting policies that improve student outcomes. But despite the low grade, the group “Students First” says the Badger State is the 20th-best at adopting policies that use test scores to evaluate teachers, create more charter schools with non-unionized teachers, and toughen policies for teacher tenure. “Students First” is headed by Michelle Rhee, a controversial former school chancellor in Washington D.C. who pushed for the same practices her group is seeking. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the group’s report did not appear to consider all the effects of the 2011 Wisconsin law that limited union bargaining, and gave school boards the control over work rules and teacher benefits. The “Students First” report said seniority continues to drive personnel decisions in Wisconsin schools when in fact, most schools now use teacher handbooks which put more pressure on teachers to perform. The report also said Wisconsin should give each school grades of “A”-through-“F.” The state recently adopted new school report cards with five levels of performance. People have connected those scores with letter-grades, although state officials say it’s not proper to make those kinds of comparisons.
A business owner from De Pere has been sentenced to a year-and-a-day in a federal prison, for not paying income taxes to the IRS that she withheld from her employees. Prosecutors said Lisa Bartz Vanden Elzen failed to give the IRS $193,000 in payroll taxes she withheld – and she failed to pay the employer’s share of those taxes, totaling 81-thousand dollars. Officials said the violations occurred between 2005 and 2010. She and her husband own Dairy Transport Services of De Pere. The 47-year-old Vanden Elzen was ordered to pay $274,000 in restitution to the federal government.
A 15-year-old girl was shot-to-death early this morning at a home on Milwaukee’s south side. And a family member told WTMJ Radio that her 19-year-old brother is the suspect. The relative identified the victim as Brenda Morales, a student at Milwaukee South Division High School. She was shot around four this morning. The station said there was no immediate word on whether her brother was in custody. As of late morning, Milwaukee Police would only confirm that the girl was killed. An investigation continues.
A 17-year-old robbery suspect who was shot by a Milwaukee police officer was hospitalized in stable condition at last word. Prosecutors are considering possible charges against the teen. Authorities said he tried to rob an off-duty Milwaukee police detective on Sunday night, while the officer was walking along a street on the city’s north side. The detective pulled out a gun and shot the teen, who had run from the scene. The boy later ran to a grocery store to get help. Officials said he has non-life-threatening injuries.
A former attorney from suburban Milwaukee will not go to prison for embezzling $737,000 from his old law firm. Circuit Judge David Hansher rejected the prosecution’s request to send Brian Mularski of Bayside to prison for two years. Instead, Mularski will spend a year in jail with release privileges to work two jobs. He also gets five years of probation – but he’ll have to spend that time in prison if he commits another crime, or violates the terms of his release. Hansher said he rejected prison time because Mularski has already paid back 238-thousand-dollars – and the judge called it the largest restitution he can remember in these kinds of cases. Hansher said he once sentenced a lawyer to two years in prison because he gambled away two-and-a-half million dollars of a client’s money – and the lawyer never tried to pay it back. Mularski diverted over 200 payments from the law firm of Eisenberg, Riley, and Zimmerman that were intended for insurance companies. The money went instead into a fund he controlled in the law firm’s name. It happened between 2006-and-’09, and the scheme was uncovered while Mularski was on vacation. Prosecutors said he used the money for a variety of personal-and-business expenses. His attorney says Mularski now works for one of his previous victims, Global Financial Credit. And he has a second job with International Sports Management.
A traditional Ice Palace will not be built in Eagle River this year, because there’s not enough ice. The 20-foot structure is normally built between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays – but this winter, it’s been too warm. The ice comes from nearby Silver Lake. Volunteers chop it into blocks, and take it to downtown Eagle River where the ice castle is built. The local Chamber-of-Commerce says the lake ice needs to be at least 14-inches thick to create the necessary blocks. But this winter, the ice is only nine-inches thick – so the project had to be canceled. The Eagle River Ice Palace has been a tradition for over 80 years, when the weather allows it.
Authorities say they may never know what started a mobile home fire near Mosinee that killed a man. Mosinee Fire Chief Josh Klug said a state Fire Marshal inspected the wreckage today, and could not figure out a cause. The victim was found inside the burned-out mobile home – but Klug said firefighters were not aware at first that somebody was inside. The victim was discovered about three-and-a-half hours after units were first called. Mosinee fire-fighters returned to the scene a couple of times today to put out hot-spots. All in all, it was not an easy day for Klug, on his first official day as Mosinee’s fire chief. The victim was a middle-age man, but his name was being withheld this afternoon, pending notification of relatives. An autopsy was to be performed in Madison.
Milwaukee Police are investigating the death of a baby boy while he was sleeping with his mother on a couch overnight. A seven-day-old infant was pronounced dead around 4:30 yesterday morning in an apartment on Milwaukee’s north side. The county medical examiner said an autopsy would be performed later today or tomorrow. Police say they’re in the early stages of their investigation.
Wisconsin’s largest city is one of 12 “Art-Places” throughout the nation. Milwaukee received the honor from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a public-and-private coalition of large foundations. Officials said Milwaukee is one of the best at combining the arts with restaurants, independent businesses, and a walkable lifestyle to create neighborhoods that are more vibrant. The Greater Milwaukee Committee received a half-million dollar grant to start up a program that attracts high-technology talent to new design companies, and connects the talent to local businesses. The other 11 “Art-Places” are Dallas, New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Miami Beach, Seattle, Portland Oregon, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles.