MADISON — Wisconsin had enough time for one more scandal before the lights turn out on 2011.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman received free legal services from the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm as it defended him in an ethics case, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this week.
That’s led to a host of ethics and legal questions, in a state beset by lawsuits and ethics complaints, such as those against doctors accused of handing out fake sick notes to protesters.
A couple of key reports came out this week as well, detailing the state’s homeland security efforts and the cost of Wisconsin’s surge in medical assistance program participants.
Add Gableman to the list
Gableman was found not guilty in a 3-3 deadlock.
The news is just the latest case in a year marked by legal and ethical complaints. Several lawsuits are pending regarding redistricting, the recall elections and voter ID.
Last month, the state Medical Examining Board, which oversees medical licensing, disciplined doctors for not keeping proper records. The punishment places limits on their licenses, lodges fines and requires the doctors to attend four hours of continuing education.
Some think the physicians got off with a wrist-slap. Others say the punishment was harsh enough.
Patricia Epstein, an attorney representing the Wisconsin physicians, in November told the Washington Post that her clients didn’t deserve such severe discipline, but agreed to the stipulations because “it was clear that was what the board wanted.”
“The State’s budgeting and financial management practices have not kept pace with growth in the size and complexity of the Medical Assistance program,” states the report, conducted for the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
Wisconsin’s Medical Assistance program, funded through federal and state tax dollars, grew substantially during the past five fiscal years, expanding from 870,201 recipients in January 2007 to 1.2 million in January 2011.
The costs have increased as a result, from $5 billion in fiscal 2007 to $7.5 billion in 2011. Children were the largest group of medical assistance recipients.
About 87 percent of the increase in expenditures was funded with federal taxpayer revenue.
Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin’s Homeland Security adviser and adjutant general, presented the Wisconsin Homeland Security Council’s annual report Wednesday.
“I do want to assure the people of Wisconsin that we take great pride in trying to invest each dollar as carefully as we can,” Dunbar said.
Wisconsin’s federal funding for Homeland Security was cut nearly in half from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011, from $10.4 million to $5.8 million.
The report follows a national study released earlier this week that concluded that, by cutting homeland security funding, the United States is unprepared to address bioterrorism, natural disasters and epidemics.
Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, or TFAH, which released the federal report, said, “Preparedness had been on an upward trajectory, but now some of the most elementary capabilities — including the ability to identify and contain outbreaks, provide vaccines and medications during emergencies, and treat people during mass traumas — are experiencing cuts in every state across the country.”