(WOMENSENEWS)–Four executives of Wisconsin’s welfare reform job training and placement agencies earned more than the governor himself, with a fifth officer earning just slightly less, according to a state audit. One agency is being investigated by the FBI for alleged improper spending of state welfare funds, according to the Milwaukee Sentinel.
The FBI in Milwaukee refused to comment.
Republican Gov. Scott McCallum earns $122,406 a year while the top five privately owned and state-funded agency administrators’ salaries in Milwaukee ranged from $122,083 to $154,524, news reports said. The five welfare agencies are Employment Solutions Inc., Maximus Corp., Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee, United Migrant Opportunity Services and YW-Works.
U.S. Health and Human Services chief Tommy G. Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, has been praised for presiding over what supporters call an enlightened and successful welfare reform program that moved many people from welfare to work and provided support services.
The five companies in Milwaukee, where the majority of clients live, paid almost $2 million in staff bonuses from 1997 through 1999, with the majority $1.7 million, going to Employment Solutions staff, according to the audit released in April.
In addition, a state audit indicated that one agency, Employment Solutions Inc., improperly spent over $480,000, with the majority of the money linked to efforts to market the firm as a national welfare reform services provider, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported. The firm also used money for parties, restaurant meals for staff and other items not allowed by the state, again according to the Milwaukee Sentinel.
Democratic state Sen. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, a former welfare mother, called the salaries and bonuses “astronomical” and authored a salary cap and other amendments in the state budget approved by the Senate on June 19. The amendments restricted the spending of “welfare to work” agencies.–Jessica McRorie