Peter Barca reacts to WEDC audit

Home » Here and Now » All Episodes » Peter Barca reacts to WEDC audit

Peter Barca reacts to WEDC audit

Premiere Date: 
May 2, 2013

Peter Barca discusses the state audit of the WEDC.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, Democratic representative from Kenosha, is on the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. He joins us from our studios in Milwaukee. Thank you for doing so. 

Peter Barca:

Thank you, Frederica, it's good to be on the show. 

Frederica Freyberg:

So, what's your reaction to this audit of WEDC? 

Peter Barca:

Well, it is a stinging audit, and extremely serious charges of illegal loans being given, illegal activities on the part of the staff and some of the executives. And it's something that has to be treated extremely seriously. This is on the heels of two other reviews that were done that were extremely critical of this agency, and I would say that WEDC is on the last gasp of life. Myself, and actually Senator Rob Cowles, co-chair of Audit both agree, we need an audit done next year. If the problems aren't corrected, it's time to go back to the old Commerce model. This is taxpayer-funded money that is being utilized in an inappropriate manner. They are not being good stewards of the taxpayers, and certainly, their performance has been abysmal. We are 46th in the nation after all, in job creation. And all the new rankings, even one from the US Chamber of Commerce just a couple of days ago predicts us to be dead last in job creation for small businesses. This is a huge problem. 

Frederica Freyberg:

You think you can blame WEDC for the lagging job growth? 

Peter Barca:

Well, WEDC is the flagship agency for the state of Wisconsin to help to stimulate job creation. It's not entirely due to WEDC. Obviously, the policies that have been put forward in the governor's last budget, where he cuts job training by about a third, and many other policies, I think have hurt the economy enormously. But clearly, their stewardship has not been a positive one. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Reed Hall, CEO of WEDC says that they are fixing all of these problems. 

Peter Barca:

Well, unfortunately, that's what we were told after the last two private reviews that were done. The evidence in this audit is, in fact, that they are not fixing the problems and in fact, in some respects, it's gotten even worse. 

Frederica Freyberg:

As a board member, did you raise red flags? 

Peter Barca:

I have. I probably have been one of the most outspoken board members, time and time again. Part of the problem is the whole reason for creating this agency was to bring in more private sector input, they said to stop the resolving door of executives leaving Commerce, and to ensure that we had an agency that would create a ton of jobs. None of those things have come through. In fact, the private sector input has not been well utilized. Many times, we're not given materials until hours, and sometimes at the board meeting. It's hard to get the input when that occurs. We find out as board members, months after of serious issues have taken place. There has been a revolving door. We just had a CFO, I think it was the third or fourth one, that stayed 24 hours. I don't know if he looked at the books and became scared and left, or what happened. But there has been a resolving door. Now, the two key people leading the agency, neither of whom have any professional economic development experience. We thought we would get world class talent. That has not occurred. So, all the things were predicted would happen if we created WEDC, have not come to pass. So now the question is, perhaps we need to go back to the Commerce model. We were 11th in job creation in the nation, the last year of Commerce's tenure. Ever since WEDC has been in place, we have fallen backwards. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Peter Barca, Thanks very much for joining us on this. 

Peter Barca:

Thank you, good to be with you, Frederica. 


We’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comment or story suggestion.

Get to know the Here and Now crew.

Find information on elections and candidates and connect to coverage from Wisconsin Public Television and Radio.