State officials defend worker's big pay raise - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

State officials defend worker's big pay raise

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Valerie Cass Valerie Cass

MADISON (WKOW) -- State officials said a state worker's expanded duties and her past experience accounted for her 35 percent salary increase over the pay of the employee who previously held her position.

Officials said Valerie Cass, 26, who sources identified as a woman involved in a relationship with Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac), was hired Feb. 7, by the department of regulation and licensing to a limited term, communications specialist position at an hourly rate of $20.35.   The hourly rate is equivalent to an annual salary of $42,328. Officials said the position was vacated by Robyn Lockett on Jan. 19. Officials said Lockett's hourly rate was $15.00,  equivalent to an annual salary of $31,200.

"Ms. Cass's compensation was set based on her professional experience in communications, her degree in journalism and the expansion of job duties to include policy research and analysis," DRL spokesperson David Carlson wrote in a statement.

Hopper told WKOW 27 News he played no role in Cass' hire. Cass has yet to return phone calls from WKOW 27 News seeking comment. 

The resume submitted by Cass to state officials reflects a bachelor's degree in journalism from Marquette University. Her work experience includes a stint as a campaign field representative for Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), and work with Madison-based political consulting firm Persuasion Partners, Inc. According to Cass' resume, the firm's client list included Committee to Elect a Republican senate, and Dan Kapanke for Congress. Cass left the job in January.

Last week, state officials told WKOW 27 News Cass was hired to an existing state position.   In materials provided to WKOW 27 News Monday, officials stated Cass' position was to "...assist the DRL Executive Assistant with preparing materials and scheduling legislative liaison and outreach activities," in addition to communications responsibilities.

State officials provided no information as to whether Cass assumed legislative outreach work previously handed by other DRL employees.

State records provided to WKOW27 News include a December email from Cass to then-Governor Walker transition team director Keith Gilkes, who is now Walker's chief of staff. In the email, Cass referenced Walker's plans for the department of commerce and a previous conversation with Gilkes,  and asked about her job prospects. "I was wondering if you had any more details about when you would have a spot ready for me?" The content of the email was first revealed in a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Gubernatorial spokesperson Cullen Werwie did not directly address the salary increase for Cass' position when asked by WKOW 27 News whether Walker was aware of it, and whether it was consistent with Walker's expectations for public employee compensation.  

"She is a temporary employee and does not receive compensation that is commensurate with other full time public employees. She does not get health insurance or pension benefits."

Last week, Hopper's estranged wife, Alysia Hopper, publicly stated her husband started an affair in Madison in 2010, with a then-25-year old woman, and was no longer living in the family home he listed as his official residence in the senate district. Hopper told WKOW 27 News he now lives in an apartment in the senate district. The property owner, who is an employee of Hopper's group of radio stations, confirmed his residence.

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