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Baldwin aide breaks silence, alleges senator engaged in ‘coverup’

By   /   April 20, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Watchdog

MADISON, Wis. — Marquette Baylor is finally speaking out against her long-time boss, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Baylor, fired by the Madison Democrat in February following a scandal at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center that has embroiled the junior senator, has filed an ethics complaint against Baldwin. It claims the senator lied and has engaged in a political cover-up.

“I, Marquette Baylor, bring this Ethics Complaint against my former employer, Senator Tammy Baldwin, for making false statements and representations to cover up actions by her Chief of Staff and protect her political career,” Baylor states in the complaint, filed Monday with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

AP file photo

BREAKING THE SILENCE: U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, fired her longtime aide Marquette Baylor earlier this year in the wake of a scandal involving Baldwin’s office and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wis. Now Baylor is breaking her silence, alleging the senator and her chief of staff have been engaged in a cover up.

The senator’s office did not immediately respond to Wisconsin Watchdog’s request for comment.

Baldwin caught heat after investigative reports in January detailing allegations of abuses at the VA medical center, principally the overprescribing of painkillers that allegedly led to the deaths of several patients.

Baldwin’s office, according to reports, did nothing with an inspector general’s report last year outlining the concerns and refused to act when a whistleblower reportedly begged Baldwin’s office to do something.

As the national spotlight grew hotter, Baldwin canned Baylor, her longtime deputy state director with, by all accounts, a sterling resume working for Baldwin and her predecessor, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee.

Baldwin has said nothing about Baylor’s termination, nor the hefty severance package — with a confidentiality clause — offered to the aide. As Wisconsin Reporter first reported , Baylor refused the payout and has enlisted the help of attorneys.

“After the public outcry, Senator Baldwin immediately sought to place the blame squarely on me,” Baylor states in her complaint, filed by Graves Garrett, the Kansas City law firm representing her. “(Baldwin) instructed her Chief of Staff, Bill Murat, to fly to Milwaukee, fire me, and offer me a severance package that required me to stay quiet. Murat then moved into damage control, meeting with individuals in Wisconsin and telling them that the inaction was my fault.”

“When I rejected the severance package, Senator Baldwin revised her plan. She hired a high-powered law firm, paid that firm to prepare an internal report for her — at no point requesting to interview me or ask me questions — and used that report to further deflect blame toward me while protecting those truly at fault,” the complaint alleges.

Baylor’s damning allegations assert that, in August 2014, constituent services representatives in the Milwaukee office she managed identified “broad-scale misconduct” at multiple VA centers. At Baylor’s direction the issue was elevated to Baldwin’s state director, Doug Hill, and legislative director, Daniel McCarthy.

“Months passed without critical guidance,” the complaint states.

Later, in November of 2014, Baylor said she was informed of the VA Office of Inspector General report regarding the overprescription practices at Tomah.

“My staff and I immediately developed an action plan and sought approval from Hill, the State Director, and Murat, the Chief of Staff. Despite repeated requests for approval of the proposed action plan, our efforts were rejected by Murat. My staff and I eventually prepared memorandums directed to the Senator herself. These memorandums were either ignored by the Senator or were withheld from her by Murat,” Baylor states in the complaint.

Baylor alleges the senator and her staff have “disparaged the truth in order to cover up Murat’s actions” and to protect Baldwin’s political career.

“Had Murat, as the Chief of Staff, allowed me and other individuals to properly perform our roles, the issues surrounding the Tomah VA Medical Center would have been identified and addressed long ago,” Baylor asserts. “By attempting to place the blame at my feet, Senator Baldwin has concealed the truth, made false statements, and mischaracterized my service as the Deputy State Director.

“Her actions to cover up Murat’s willful misconduct are unbecoming of a United States Senator. She has acted unethically,” the complaint alleges.

With more than a decade of service to Wisconsin policymakers and constituents, she says she is reluctant to challenge a United States senator.

“I am also reluctant to enter the spotlight, knowing that my actions will be viewed critically, and in hindsight,” Baylor states. “But given the events in recent months — the misinformation campaign designed to protect the Senator and her Chief of Staff — this reluctance must yield. It must yield to defend my name and reputation from unjustified attack. And it must yield to bring focus to where it should have been all along: the veterans who receive care by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.”

Baylor could not be reached for comment Monday, and her attorney declined to comment.

The Wisconsin GOP certainly had some things to say about Baylor’s complaint, however.

“Tammy Baldwin has been holding back the truth for months, and this Complaint is a startling revelation that Baldwin will say and do anything to protect herself and stay in power,” said Joe Fadness, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “If true, Baldwin must finally answer lingering questions about her role in the cover-up and decision to mislead Wisconsin.​”

Read more coming up at Wisconsin Watchdog.

Read the Baylor’s complaint here.


M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at mkittle@watchdog.org.