Home Madison Parisi blasts County Board over Stubbs appointment

Parisi blasts County Board over Stubbs appointment


County Executive Joe Parisi issued a blistering statement Friday in support of Rep. Shelia Stubbs, his nominee to head the county’s health department, after a County Board committee voted unanimously to recommend the nomination not be confirmed.

After hours of public testimony in support of Stubbs, members of the Health and Human Needs Committee expressed concern that Stubbs’ job as a State Representative would distract from her ability to do the job, and could present conflicts of interest — despite Stubbs’ public announcement that she would resign from the Assembly upon confirmation to the County job.

“The County Board Chair, the Chair of the Health and Human Needs (HHN) Committee, and a number of members of this Board have known for days what Representative Stubbs’ intentions were should she be confirmed as Human Services Director,” Parisi wrote in the statement. “She spoke directly with several members of that committee many days before the hearing – and met for hours in person over a week ago with the chair of HHN. The frame of the questions last night made it clear the content of those conversations were not relayed publicly nor accurately. Untruths through omission are not a reflection of the good faith required for democracy to function. Representative Stubbs has been mindful of the timing of her confirmation and the impact it could have on the state budget process. She had shared with Supervisors her intention to submit her letter of resignation to the Assembly as soon as she’s confirmed. They knew very well that any overlap in the two positions if it occurred would have only been for a few weeks. Instead, they chose to weaponize the careful balance Representative Stubbs tried to walk to protect interests broader than those of county government.”

Parisi added that the debate and vote were “unprecedented” — a sentiment that’s hovered around the appointment since it was announced on April 13.

Usually, when the County Executive makes an appointment to head a department — which are political appointments and not subject to the civil service employment system — the chair of the relevant committee introduces a resolution to approve the appointment, which then must be approved by that committee, the Personnel and Finance Committee, and finally the full County Board.

In this case, that’s the Health and Human Needs Committee, chaired by Heidi Wegleitner.

Upon announcement of the appointment, Department of Administration Director had his staff draft the resolution and asked County Board Chair Patrick Miles whether he’d like to sponsor it; Miles demured to allow Wegleitner to do so. Wegleitner, however, hesitiated, instead telling Brockmeyer she’d have to think about it, according to Brockmeyer’s notes from the conversation. She then asked for the application materials of all four finalists, and then for the names of all 26 applicants.

Wegleitner and several other County Board supervisors said she was simply doing due diligence; however, Brockmeyer said in the six years he’s directed the Department of Administration, no Supervisor had asked for that kind of information in relation to a County Executive’s appointment. County Board supervisors say they got hundreds of emails from Stubbs supporters, and Blacks for Political and Social Action penned an editorial signed by more than 40 prominent Black leaders. That editorial accused County Board leaders of refusing to introduce the nominating resolution — something Wegleitner and Miles both denied. Supervisor Yogesh Chawla said the editorial “contains a number of factual inaccuracies” in a Facebook post. 

Wegleitner said in an email to BPSA vice president Kirbie Mack that she was willing to sponsor the resolution, which she ultimately did after the editorial was published on Madison365, five days after the nomination was announced, leading to the committee vote Wednesday night.

Last week, Miles told Madison365 that he thought Stubbs lacked the appropriate experience for the job.

“I didn’t know she had interest in this area,” he said. “Not making a qualitative judgment about it, but she has a very different type of experience than anybody we’ve had in that position before. She’s been a policymaker for years and years before that a probation officer, so she hasn’t been in a position of overseeing a department of over 700 employees and half the county’s budget.”

Members of the County Board Black Caucus declined comment when approached at an unrelated press conference.

Multiple supervisors also expressed surprise that Parisi didn’t nominate Astra Iheukumere, who’s been serving as interim director since August.

Parisi said those kinds of considerations — as well as whether or not the nominee has other commitments — aren’t for the County Board to decide.

“Members of the Dane County Board last night went on record saying an African American woman with a Masters’ degree in management and Bachelors’ degrees in criminal justice and political science, 16 years in county elected office, who has lived experience volunteering in community centers and working for decades to fight poverty and racism while advocating for those less fortunate is not qualified to lead the county’s work in serving vulnerable populations,” he wrote. “The role of the County Board in reviewing nominees to lead county departments is straight forward. Board members are to evaluate whether an individual nominated by the County Executive is qualified for the job at hand. Representative Stubbs’ resume speaks for itself and the actions of Board leadership since the moment I made this recommendation have been unprecedented.”

The committee vote does not end the process; it is simply a recommendation that the full County Board reject the nomination. The Personnel and Finance Committee will also make a recommendation at its next meeting Monday, and the full County Board will take it up on Thursday.

This story has been updated to correct a quote from Supervisor Chawla’s Facebook post and to include email communication between Wegleitner and BPSA leadership.