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WisDOT chief legal counsel quits after Walker email release

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s chief legal counsel left his job last week, just two days after the public release of an email he sent four years ago joking about legalizing prostitution as a way to increase tourism or provide jobs for people on welfare.

The email from John J. Schulze Jr. was among the 28,000 pages of documents collected as part of an investigation into illegal campaign work by former aides and associates of Gov. Scott Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive.

The emails were released on Feb. 19. Schulze left his job at WisDOT, which he held since May 2013, two days later on Friday, Feb. 21, department spokeswoman Peg Schmitt said Tuesday. Madison weekly newspaper Isthmus first reported the departure.

“It came to our attention last week that an email sent by a Department of Transportation employee prior to his joining the administration contained inappropriate and offensive content,” Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said. “The email is in poor taste and there is no room for this poor conduct in Governor Walker’s administration.”

Evenson referred questions about whether Schulze resigned or was fired to Schmitt at WisDOT. Schmitt declined to comment on that, saying it was a personnel issue. Personnel records show he made $109,000 in the job.

A person who answered Schulze’s home phone said he was not available to comment and hung up before a message could be left.

Schulze sent the email in March 2010 to a variety of Walker campaign and county workers, including campaign manager Keith Gilkes and deputy chief of staff Kelly Rindfleisch. The email contained a made-up press release from 1998 in which Schulze joked about legalizing prostitution as a tourist attraction in the Wisconsin Dells or as a way to provide work for people transitioning off of welfare.

Schulze wrote in the subject line of the 2010 email that he had discovered the 12-year-old fake press release on an old zip drive. In the body of the message he wrote, “Two comments: 1) I cannot believe I sent this over the state email system 2) I am one funny dude.”

At the time the fake press release was written, Schulze was working as a communications specialist for the Wisconsin state Assembly. He also worked as a deputy press secretary for Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, a law clerk for Republican Gov. Scott McCallum and a corporate attorney for American Transmission Co.

His departure marks the second time a high-ranking WisDOT official has lost his job in recent months.

In August, Walker fired assistant deputy secretary Steven Krieser for Facebook posts calling immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission criminals and likening them to Satan.

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