27 News interview: Smith says workplace conduct ethical - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

27 News interview: Smith says workplace conduct ethical


MADISON (WKOW) -- In an exclusive broadcast interview with 27 News, outgoing state health services secretary Dennis Smith said his workplace conduct was appropriate and ethical, as the husband of Smith's former chief legal counsel claims Smith carried out an affair with his wife.

"Mary Spear was a great friend, personal friend; what happened is a tragedy," Smith told 27 News reporter Tony Galli.

Authorities said former health services chief legal counsel Spear was set on fire by her husband, Andrew Spear, in a murder attempt. Andrew Spear denies trying to kill her. In a court affidavit, Spear claims one of his wife's emails to Smith expressed her love for him, with Smith responding he would not leave her. Court records show Smith told Madison police investigators some of his email correspondence with Mary Spear was "sensitive."

"This is rumors," Smith told 27 News.

Smith declined to elaborate on the contents of the emails he characterized as sensitive.

When asked by 27 News whether he observed all workplace, conduct standards in dealing with Spear, Smith was succinct. "I did," Smith said.

Smith's resignation was announced by Governor Walker last Friday. Smith, a former top health care official in the Bush administration, is joining a Washington, D.C. law firm. Smith's resignation announcement came days after Andrew Spear's affidavit was filed with the court, and hours after 27 News reported on Smith's descriptions of his emails.

Smith also leaves shortly after Walker announced rejection of federal money to expand Medicaid, instead proposing to shift higher-income Medicaid recipients to coming, federal health insurance exchanges.

Smith conceded his departure comes as the Walker administration makes the case for the somewhat unorthodox approach to providing health care options to low income customers.

"The timing is not always perfect," Smith told 27 News.

Smith noted Walker's plan will reduce the state's rate of medically uninsured residents nearly in half.

During a speech to health care providers and advocates Tuesday, Smith described the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as crumbling, citing missed deadlines, failure to yet create a promised hub of medical data, and cost shifting plans. Smith's critique took aim at the planned, federal health care exchanges, even though Walker's proposal relies on them to accommodate the health insurance needs of 89,000 former state Medicaid recipients.

"The federal government says they're going to be ready for them," Smith told 27 News. "So we're going to take them at their word."

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