Governor's office denies affair caused Health Secretary to resignWisconsin News
-- The governor’s office says the resignation of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith had nothing to do with accusations that Smith had an affair with his agency’s top attorney.
MADISON - The governor’s office says the resignation of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith had nothing to do with accusations that Smith had an affair with his agency’s top attorney.
Smith resigned yesterday, and deputy health secretary Kitty Rhoades was promoted to the top spot. Smith said he was pursuing what he called a “tremendous” private sector opportunity – but as of early afternoon, nobody has said what it is.
Last August, Andrew Spear – the husband of lawyer Mary Spear – was charged in Dane County with eight criminal counts including attempted homicide. Prosecutors said he beat his wife and tried setting her on fire, after seeing e-mails which indicated she was having an affair with the married Smith. On Tuesday, Andrew Spear filed a court affidavit claiming he saw an e-mail in which his wife declared her love for Smith. Today, governor’s spokesman Cullen Werwie told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quote, “That has absolutely nothing to do with it, and any representation to the contrary in a news article does a disservice to a hard-working public servant who has honorably served the state of Wisconsin.” Smith’s attorney, Bob Jambois, says Spear could not be trusted – and as a former prosecutor, Jambois has seen domestic abusers falsely accuse their spouses of sleeping with others, especially men in positions of power. Spear is scheduled to go on trial April 29th.
Smith leaves after overseeing some controversial measures promoted by Governor Scott Walker to not tailor the new federal health exchanges to Wisconsin needs – and then counting on those exchanges to care for recipients above the poverty line who would leave Medicaid. Walker has said it would help more impoverished childless adults get Medicaid, while stabilizing the program financially. Smith praised Walker in his resignation letter. He said it was a “profound honor” to serve Walker, and he said this about the governor – “There is no void between your words and your actions.”
Wisconsin’s new health secretary says she’s on board with the reforms proposed by Governor Scott Walker. Deputy Secretary Kitty Rhoades was promoted today to run the health agency, after Dennis Smith stepped down. Smith – a former head of the U.S. Medicare-and-Medicaid agency – has overseen the governor’s reluctance to get Wisconsin on board with the Obama health reform package, the biggest parts of which are due to take effect in 2014. Rhoades, a former Republican state representative from Hudson, issued a statement indicating that her agency will not change its course. In her words, “Wisconsin has been a leader in reforming our health care system – and with the governor’s innovative proposals, we will continue this tradition.” Under Smith’s watch, Wisconsin has refused to tailor the new health insurance exchanges to its own needs, indicating that it would cost the state more in the long run. And he was on board with Walker’s plan to expand Medicaid for Badger-Care childless adults below the poverty line – while moving others into the new purchasing exchanges. Smith said the changes would stabilize Medicaid for the most vulnerable who need it, while setting the program on a course toward sustaining itself. State Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said Smith was quote, “more interested in an extreme ideology than in advocating for the health and well-being of Wisconsinites.” And he said Rhoades has a chance to turn the page on what Tate called an “unprecedented assault on Badger-Care.”