By DANA FERGUSON
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin filed an ethics complaint against the Wisconsin Democrat on Monday, saying Baldwin unfairly faulted her for mishandling reports of problems at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center.
Marquette Baylor, who was fired in January, said in the complaint to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics that Baldwin used her as a scapegoat in the office’s mishandling of reports of overprescribing of narcotics and retaliatory behavior at the hospital.
“Senator Baldwin immediately sought to place the blame squarely on me,” Baylor said in the complaint. “I was being let go because my job performance was not ‘the Tammy Baldwin way.'”
Baldwin said in February that Baylor was terminated due to long-term performance issues that weren’t exclusive to her dealing with concerns about the Tomah hospital. The senator later admitted responsibility for her staff’s mishandling of reports.
John Kraus, Baldwin’s spokesman, said in a statement Monday that Baylor was choosing to be used as a pawn by Baldwin’s Republican opponents.
It is up to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics to decide if it will take up an investigation into Baylor’s complaint.
The Tomah medical center is at the center of probes by the VA, the VA Office of the Inspector General and the Drug Enforcement Administration. A VA report last month concluded that patients at the facility were more likely than patients at other VA hospitals to receive high doses of pain killers. The report also said there was an atmosphere of fear among staff members that affected patient care.
Baylor said in her complaint that Baldwin instructed her Chief of Staff Bill Murat to fire Baylor and offer her a severance package that included a confidentiality clause. Baylor said if she’d been able to perform her role without intervention by Murat, “the issues surrounding the Tomah VA Medical Center would have been identified and addressed long ago.”
She said her team tried to address the issues at the Tomah facility, but Murat prevented them from doing so. Baylor did not explain her claim in the written complaint and did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting a comment Monday.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson also received reports of wrongdoing at the Tomah VA hospital, but didn’t immediately respond.
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