- Fraud in Racine County was the centerpiece of the Journal-Sentinel's first investigative article, back on Jan. 25. Refresh your memory here and re-read how county workers continually missed warning signs and kept the checks flowing for years. Part 2 of the series raised the county's fraud ante to about $1 million in just the handful of cases the newspaper investigated.
- And then three days later came County Executive Bill McReynold's reaction, in a Journal Times article whose headline said it all: "No county inadequacy over child care system, says McReynolds." He went on to give a more nuanced response than that -- "I don't condone fraud," for instance -- but at the same time seemed more interested in investigating how the newspaper got its facts than stopping the fraud.
But county officials -- um, mostly Republican county officials or those reporting to them -- were shocked, shocked!
So now we've had a week of potshots taken at Mason, D-Racine, for stating the obvious: dueling commentaries on the JT's editorial page, two County Board members taking sides, a JT editorial calling for everyone to make nice, accept responsibility and fix the system.
Mason today made his own effort to tone down the rhetoric and make peace. He invited county officials to sit down with him and state officials for a discussion about Wisconsin Shares. That could be more promising and less like the invitation to a hanging county officials earlier extended to Mason -- to have him come to a County Board meeting to explain his votes and defend his criticisms.
“The issues surrounding Wisconsin Shares are too important for us to discuss through the press, as has unfortunately happened in recent days,” said Mason. “Both County officials and legislators must work together to ensure the program’s success. I am interested in a productive, respectful dialogue about Shares to guarantee that we can meaningfully pair tougher state laws with effective County enforcement.”
Mason proposes a meeting with McReynolds, Board Chair Peter Hansen, and Human Services Board Chair Mike Miklasevich, Rep. Peter Barca who co-chairs the Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee, and Rep. Tamara Grigsby, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. "Rep. Barca will bring the details and experience of the Legislative Audit Bureau’s recent and ongoing audit of the Shares program. Rep. Grigsby can bring her insight as the lead author of the bill passed last week by the Legislature cracking down on Shares fraud," Mason said.
“I hope we can convene as soon as possible," Mason said, "and meet for as long as necessary to ensure that we get to the bottom of current state-county tensions related to the Wisconsin Shares program. I am looking forward to this important and hopefully productive conversation. I hope that Racine County’s officials share my desire to work together to ensure the integrity of Shares and preserve this vital program which serves so many of the Racine-area’s working families.”
It'll be interesting to see whether this meeting takes place, and whether anything comes of it. For now, it appears that Republicans are having too much fun trying to make Mason the scapegoat and planting seeds for the next election.
Full disclosure: As most readers of this site already know, my daughter works for Cory Mason; she had nothing to do with this article. -- Pete Selkowe