A former aide to Gov. Scott Walker during his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive pleaded not guilty to all four felony charges of disorderly conduct in public office as part of an ongoing John Doe investigation Tuesday.
Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker’s former deputy chief of staff in Milwaukee County, has been accused on four counts for doing campaign work and fundraising while remaining in her county job.
The charges against Rindfleisch are part of a larger investigation, also known as a John Doe probe, into Walker’s previous administration, which has resulted in charges being brought against five former Walker employees.
According to the complaints filed against Rindfleisch, a secret computer system was being used in Rindfleisch’s office for campaign emails. The maximum penalty for Rindfleisch’s felonies is six years in prison.
Under current state law, it is illegal for publicly paid workers to raise funds, work on campaigns or use state property while working on their official responsibilities.
Darlene Wink, who has also been charged in building the computer network, pled guilty Feb. 7 to two charges of soliciting political funds while working in a county office.
Rindfleisch’s attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, announced the pleas Tuesday. Gimbel also requested to change the venue of the proceedings from Milwaukee County to Rindfleisch’s residence in Columbia County, held under Republican Deputy Attorney Jane Kohlwey.
The hearing to discuss the change in venue will take place March 30 because of the judge’s decision.
Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck said he finds the investigation to be a “very serious matter,” and that the change in venue should not have an effect on the proceedings.
“Columbia County is just where she lives, but the facts will stand wherever,” Heck said. “It’s just a stalling tactic; I don’t think it will change the outcome.”
Despite the presence of previous venue change motions, Heck also said he thinks such requests are not generally permitted for the general public and said because of Rindfleisch’s position, this is “just how the law works.”
Although Walker has not been charged, Heck said Rindfleisch’s association with the Walker administration will affect the governor down the road.
“Despite Walker and his staff’s attempt to paint a rosy picture, the Rindfleisch case will affect the Walker administration, especially when going into a recall election,” Heck said.
Heck said Walker’s decision to set up a legal defense fund is also suspicious because setting up such a fund is only allowed by those who are currently under investigation.
University of Wisconsin Professor Donald Downs agreed with Heck and said the Rindfleisch case has political implications on the Walker administration and is unsure why Walker believes he is not targeted in this case.
“This case definitely casts some shadows over Walker,” Downs, also an adviser to The Badger Herald, said. “Prosecutions are political themselves.”
Currently, Walker has deferred all releases of information to District Attorney of Milwaukee County John Chisholm. It is unknown whether or not Walker has met with Chisholm.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.