Despite his protests, Evers has been asleep at the switch

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 17, 2022
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Evers spent the last 90 seconds of his debate with Republican challenger Tim Michels trying to convince someone — anyone — that he hasn’t slacked off on the job.
We think the Democrat doth protest too much. Why? We have his official calendars.
“They keep saying that I sleep too late,” Evers said Friday night during his final “thoughts” in the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association gubernatorial debate.
“I get up early just like any other human being that’s working hard to work for the people of Wisconsin,” Evers defensively muttered.
And then he added this muddled statement: “So, going to bed late, getting up early, they say that I spend too much sleeping. I’m just kidding, frankly, but it is a bunch of crap.”
He wasn’t kidding, and it’s not a bunch of crap.
As Empower Wisconsin reported last month, Evers has rightly been accused of being an “absentee governor.”

The calendars, obtained by Empower Wisconsin through open records requests, show Evers has often put in less than an eight-hour day over his term, much less a 40-hour week, doing the people’s business. A good portion of his schedule is redacted, apparently devoted to personal or political campaign time.

Even in times of crisis, the governor has put in an average workday at best. Let’s just say he’s no Lincoln.

A governor’s schedule is prone to variation. That’s the nature of leading the state’s executive branch. Oftentimes, the job, which pays $152,000 a year, comes with long days. But in terms of workweek hours, Evers’ schedule has remained pretty consistent.

Empower Wisconsin compared the governor’s calendars for the first week in February in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. This is historically a busy week for a governor. The Legislature was in session, and Evers was preparing a budget in two of the years. He was also dealing with a pandemic and related problems. But the governor kept a relatively light schedule. He averaged just under 36 hours of total official government work, according to his calendars.

For the week around February 15 in 2019, ’20 and ’21, Evers averaged just 33 1/2 hours per week. And for the last week of February, he worked on average just over 20 hours.

On Wednesday Feb. 27, 2019, Evers put in just over six hours of official business, according to his calendar. That included a 45-minute breakfast with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and a half hour of drive time back and forth between the Executive Mansion and the Capitol. He got home at 2:45 p.m. The rest of the day is redacted.

The average Wisconsin worker logged nearly 42 hours per week last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average worker was paid a lot less than Tony Evers.

Evers’ suspect work ethic has been on full display during the nearly four years he’s been in office.

Several state offices in Madison observed by Empower Wisconsin last month were open to the public by appointment only. At the Department of Health Services office on West Wilson St., Empower Wisconsin was told that “nobody is really working in the building.” At the Department of Workforce Development on East Washington Avenue, the offices were closed to the walk-in public. And the state offices housed at the Hill Farms complex had limited public hours. In the case of the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), office hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily, but “nobody is ever up there,” a security officer told Empower Wisconsin. “There is a front desk, but nobody is there.”

Call these offices, like the governor’s office, and you will likely get a recording telling you to leave a message. The folks who have been through the DSPS and DWD phone tree wasteland will tell you not to hold your breath waiting for a call back.

With the governor’s limited office hours, should it be any wonder state government offices are ghost towns?  More so, is it any surprise that these agencies have failed the public so miserably?

Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Workforce Development kept tens of thousands of people waiting for their unemployment benefits for months. Some were stuck in DWD’s bureaucratic nightmare for over a year. Evers had just a few meetings with his Workforce Development chief and his administrators during the crisis. Schedules and emails obtained by Empower Wisconsin show Evers met with Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman just one time between March 1 and Sept. 18, 2020 — the day he fired him. Meanwhile, a state audit underscored DWD’s many failures, including the fact the agency did not resolve issues with claims “even though it had the information to do so and because DWD had not requested information it needed from individuals and employers.”

The Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) has proved to be as incompetent. Wisconsin has been mired in a license crisis for nearly two years. as professionals across the state have been forced to wait several months or more for their credentials to be processed.

State Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), who has led two committees investigating the problems at DSPS, in August asked, “(H)ow can Wisconsinites get their licenses, when their ‘leader’ is an absentee governor?”

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