MADISON (WKOW) -- The Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says it's committed to protecting consumes.
The letter is in response to what a union president wrote last November, critiquing the agency for closing offices.
"Our agency faces a reduction in positions and resources," wrote Deputy Secretary Randy Romanski, "that requires the department to look at alternatives to delivering service."
Here's the full text as provided by DATCP:
Dear Mr. Schultz:
Thank you for your letter of November 3 expressing your concerns about the Consumer Protection (CP) reorganization. As we discussed when we met on October 16, these are challenging times for the state as well as the nation. Our agency faces a reduction in positions and resources that requires the department to look at alternatives for delivering service.
The department is committed to providing quality consumer protection to the citizens of Wisconsin. Given the magnitude of the budget challenges and position reductions, we can no longer afford the operational costs associated with regional offices.
The Bureau currently leases two of the three regional offices, Eau Claire and Wauwatosa, from private parties and the Green Bay Office from the Department of Administration (DOA). We are actively working with DOA to rent the spaces prior to the end of our lease terms. Eliminating the rent and other costs for the three offices is a significant step in achieving the ongoing cost savings needed to meet our current and future budget challenges.
The dedication and professionalism of our staff made the decision to close regional offices extremely difficult. To a person, they have provided superior consumer protection services to the citizens of Wisconsin. After exploring other options, however, the department determined that closing regional offices was the only viable alternative for addressing the department's budget challenges while continuing to provide high quality services to Wisconsin consumers.
We realize that relocating to Madison is not an easy decision for any staff impacted by this reorganization. The department therefore elected to layoff regional staff instead of transferring their positions to Madison since layoff provides the maximum benefits to those who cannot move. These benefits include: access to the Wisconsin Employee Referral Service (WISCRS); time off without loss of pay for job training and job search activities; mandatory restoration rights for up to 5 years; reinstatement eligibility for up to 5 years; 5 months of employer contribution towards health insurance; and the ability to convert accumulated sick leave to pay for health insurance premiums.
At the October 16 meeting, you asked us to work with the Office of State Employment Relations (OSER) to allow CP staff who accept a position in Madison in lieu of layoff to have continued access to the WISCERS system. We took that request to OSER and it has determined that employees who have received layoff letters and have accepted positions in Madison will continue in At-Risk status in WISCERS after December 7th. Staff who are laid off or demote in lieu of layoff will continue At-Risk status in WISCERS as well.
You also asked if staff could telecommute from home offices. The department has determined that work at home is not appropriate for the type of work done by CP staff. The majority consumer complaints received contain personal information.
Personal information, as defined in Sec. 134.98, Stats., is an individual's last name and the individual's first name or first initial, in combination with and linked to any of the following elements, if the element is not publicly available information and is not encrypted, redacted, or altered in a manner that renders the element unreadable:
Consumers entrust their data to the department and we have a fiduciary responsibility to protect it. For this reason, we do not permit our paper or electronic files and/or documents to leave the office. The department knows that none of the staff would intentionally put these files at risk. Nonetheless, data breaches can and do occur despite using best practices to prevent breaches.
Thank you for raising these issues. We look forward to working with you to assist staff in making the transition.