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STATE CRIME AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Legislature debating the privacy of employee's Facebook accounts

A state senator says employers snooping into personal Facebook accounts is not a big problem in Wisconsin – but there’s still a need to regulate it. West Bend Republican Glenn Grothman is one of the main sponsors of a bill to prohibit the practice, except when employers need to investigate improper transmissions of confidential data. The bill is up for a public hearing today in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. It would prohibit employers from asking workers and job candidates for passwords to their social media accounts. Some firms say they need to snoop to avoid trade secrets from getting out. Critics call it a blatant invasion of privacy. Grothman says he wants to prevent quote, “a busy-body boss or busy-body college administrator – or a landlord for that matter – from looking at your private account.” Fourteen states have approved such bans, and it’s pending in all 36 others. The Wisconsin bill had an Assembly hearing in May, and both houses could vote on the measure next month. Wisconsin’s workforce development agency is guessing it would have to investigate about 200 complaints a year that allege violations. Chris Reader of the state’s largest business group calls the bill an attempt to balance personal privacy with the needs of employers


State officials will hold their first meetings today with those who want to help people sign up for the new insurance purchasing exchanges under the Obama health law. The state Health Services Department helped organize the sessions, the first of which will be in Middleton and Green Bay. Just over a half-million uninsured Wisconsinites can start applying October first for health coverage in the new exchanges. The coverage begins January first. State Medicaid director Brett Davis expects thousands of people to help get the uninsured signed up – even though the state only has about one-tenth of the funding as neighboring Minnesota for so-called “navigators” to help people go through the new maze of options. The Gopher State was among 16 to set up their own state government exchanges, instead of taking a federal template like Wisconsin did. Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation said the states with their own exchanges have nearly unlimited funds to help people deal with them – while an unexpectedly-high 34 states are sharing a smaller pot. Wisconsin insurance officials say it should not be a problem. They’ll count on private agents and brokers to explain the various optionsto people. Wisconsin received about a million federal dollars for its navigators. Community health centers around the state got another one-point-eight million for the same purpose. 


No charges will be filed against a Milwaukee tavern owner who killed one of three men who tried to rob the place last week. Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern said yesterday that Andy Kochanski’s actions were quote, “lawfully permissible in defense of himself and others.” Police said 23-year-old Carmelo Matos-Arzola was shot-and-killed last Thursday as he tried robbing the Concertina Beer Hall, a well-known polka bar on Milwaukee’s south side. One of the other two suspects was wounded by Kochanski. 21-year-old Jose Munoz of Milwaukee was arrested during the weekend at a Chicago hospital, where he was served with an arrest warrant. He’s charged with armed robbery by force. The third suspect remains at large. A concealed weapons’ group will highlight the self-defense aspect of the incident, by holding a free training class at the polka bar on Sunday for those interested in getting state concealed-carry permits. Wisconsin Carry Incorporated is sponsoring the class. Its leader, Nik Clark, says Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Madison conservative radio host Vicki McKenna will hold a news conference before the class. Sheriff Clarke is waging a campaign to encourage people to learn how to use guns to protect themselves. 


A Democrat says he wants the state Legislature’s audit committee to nullify a retroactive pay raise for Capitol Police Chief David Erwin. Milwaukee Representative Jon Richards said a 720-dollar retroactive increase violates the Walker administration’s pay plan for state employees. Retroactive pay hikes are only allowed to correct administrative errors, or when awards are granted in misconduct and appeal cases. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Sunday that Walker’s people went around civil service salary limits for Erwin and Deputy Capitol Police Chief Dan Blackdeer. Both were reportedly placed in phantom jobs for a couple weeks, and then put back into their actual jobs with pay hikes of almost 12-percent for Erwin and nearly 15-percent for Blackdeer. Erwin’s pay hike totaled almost 11-thousand-700-dollars a year, the first 720 being retroactive. Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said a mistake was made in posting the Capitol chief’s maximum salary before he was hired. Richards said he doesn’t buy the explanation. His adjustment pays him just over 111-thousand dollars a year, which is what his predecessor Charles Tubbs made. Blackdeer did not get a retroactive hike. His general pay raise gives him 96-thousand per year. Marquis said both took on added duties in boosting security at state office.


The county executive in Appleton says he’ll create an independent panel to review Outagamie County’s response to five tornadoes soon after midnight on August seventh. Officials have received heavy criticism after warning sirens were not sounded in advance. Executive Tom Nelson says officials will spend the next week meeting with various responders, to develop a timeline of events – and what could have been done to warn people sooner. Emergency Management Director Julie Loeffelholz said she could not have sounded the sirens, because power had already been lost to the tower which controls the system. Sheriff’s officials said the sirens should have been activated at 12:32, soon after a severe thunderstorm warning was issued and damage reports already started coming in. Loeffelholz said she arrived at the county warning center just after few minutes after the initial warning – and a few minutes later, she learned that both the siren system and its back-up units were out. On Friday, the county’s Public Safety Committee recommended disciplinary action against Loeffelholz and sheriff’s department members. The panel met for another two hours with officials in a closed session last night. Nelson said he would not indicate whether the review could affect the panel’s personnel recommendations. He said he’ll let things run their course. 


A Rhinelander man accused of shooting his uncle over household chores is due back in court a week from tomorrow. 23-year-old Marcus Alsteens completed his initial appearance yesterday in Oneida County on charges of attempted homicide, endangering safety, aggravated battery, and causing injury by the negligent use of a weapon. All but the endangerment charge are felonies. Authorities said Alsteens shot his 49-year-old uncle Justin Alsteens on August 12th in Rhinelander, and was later arrested near Eagle River. The shooting victim was still in critical condition at last word at a Marshfield hospital. Alsteens remains in jail under a 50-thousand dollar bond. At his next court appearance, a judge is expected to decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial on the felony counts. 


Prosecutors said a Walmart employee in Neenah shot a co-worker because she was jealous over the victim’s move to another job in the store. A criminal complaint said 46-year-old Justine Boyd was apparently upset that 56-year-old Sharon Goffard was moved from a cashier’s job, to what she thought was an easier post in the liquor department. Boyd, of Appleton, made her first appearance yesterday in Winnebago County Circuit Court on a charge of attempted homicide. She asked for a public defender, and her initial appearance continues this afternoon. Goffard, of Neenah, was still in critical condition at last word at a Neenah hospital. Prosecutors said Boyd was working at a check-out counter when she told a co-worker she had to use the restroom. Five minutes later, the co-worker told police she heard a loud bang. Authorities said it was a gunshot, and Goffard had been shot from 5-to-7-feet away. The complaint said Boyd had two guns and several rounds of ammunition on her, when she was working the day of the shooting. 


A former school custodian in far northern Wisconsin is facing dozens of child pornography charges. 61-year-old Richard Buell of Phelps was arrested yesterday in Vilas County. Authorities say he could face 78 possible counts of child porn possession. Officials said Buell worked in the Phelps School District until February, the same month after another staffer reported that somebody was gaining access to child porn on school computers. District officials say an investigation continues. 

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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