MADISON (WKOW) -- Political party allegiance between Governor Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen did not prevent Van Hollen from awarding bonuses to more than two dozen staff members who called for Walker's ouster.
A review of records from the state Justice Department and the Government Accountability Board shows more than a quarter of DOJ employees who received merit bonuses signed recall petitions against Governor Walker.
State records show 93 DOJ employees received discretionary merit compensation awards this year.
A comparison by 27 News of that data with the GAB's searchable database of people who signed recall petitions against the governor shows at least 28 employees receiving merit pay signed recall petitions.
Because the names of some of the recipients of bonuses were common names, it is possible other DOJ staff members with merit pay also signed recall petitions.
The list of people both receiving a bonus and signing the recall included four assistant attorneys general.
Both the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General J.B Van Hollen, and Walker are Republicans. As the state's top attorney, Van Hollen and his assistants have defended Walker against legal challenges involving collective bargaining limits, legislative redistricting, and voter identification.
Van Hollen has awarded the most merit pay approved by the Walker administration of any division of government. Several union officials have complained the merit pay system is susceptible to political favoritism. Two of the DOJ employees receiving merit salary increases are Van Hollen's top political appointee, and the appointee's wife.
Van Hollen has maintained work product and the need to retain valuable employees have been the considerations in awarding bonuses.
DOJ employees who received bonuses and signed recall petitions work in several different department divisions.
"Our workforce reflects people with a wide variety of views," DOJ spokesperson Dana Brueck said.
"Whether or not an employee signed a recall petition was never discussed or considered in making the decision to award DMCs."
Executive Director Jay Heck of the government watchdog group Common Cause said such a criteria would have easily exposed the merit system as manipulated.
"The attorney general and the Walker administration were smart enough to realize that if they excluded anybody who signed a recall petition, then it would look blatantly partisan and political."
Heck said the existence of only 220 discretionary merit bonus awards among thousands of eligible state employees raises questions of fairness.
Walker has said employees under his direct supervision would not receive merit awards until he was assured bonuses would be equitable across state government. But Walker administration officials did approve all merit-increases, including those awarded to DOJ employees.
The bonus payments to date total $765,000.
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