By M.D. Kittle
MADISON —Less than a month after being promoted, an administrator in the state Department of Justice has filed a federal lawsuit against Kaul and his top deputy.
Kaul’s flak vehemently denied the allegations and accused Tina Virgil, a 29-year DOJ employee, of filing a complaint filled with false or misleading statements, which begs the question: Why did Kaul and company put an administrator they believe knowingly lied in legal documents into a position of greater power.
Virgil filed the civil rights lawsuit last week, not long after she was tapped to lead DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees, names Kaul and Deputy Attorney General Eric Wilson as defendants.
Virgil, who is black, alleges she was unfairly compensated and harassed because of her race and gender.
The lawsuit includes several bombshell allegations, including some salacious charges. The complaint also alleges Kaul was “deliberately indifferent” to discriminatory behavior toward Virgil, and Kaul himself engaged in discriminatory behavior.
According to the lawsuit, Wilson:
- Removed a nine-year female employee from Virgil’s supervisory chain of command based on a rumor that Virgil had a relationship with the female employee, which was absolutely false, but upon being made aware of the rumor about white employees engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with subordinates, Wilson took no such action.
- Suggested Virgil and her family supported Chicago Mayor Lightfoot because of Lightfoot’s “alternative lifestyle.” Lightfoot is an openly gay, black woman.
- Made derogatory statements to Virgil, such as, “you are just full of drama,” a common stereotype about women, when she did not agree with a position he had taken on a matter and made no such comments about white or male employees.
- Suggested that Virgil had never ridden in a luxury car such as the one he owned, implying that African-Americans would not have such cars.
Virgil, 57, previously filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging a host of civil rights violations. Kaul has denied the allegations and his office has repeatedly pointed to an outside review of the agency conducted by University of Wisconsin System attorneys. The findings note some issues at the DOJ but that Kaul and Wilson did not create a hostile work environment.
Virgil begs to differ. When she served as administrator of the Division of Law Enforcement Services in Kaul’s DOJ, Virgil was paid less than the previous white male administrator, despite her extensive qualifications and experience, according to the lawsuit.
“At the time of her appointment, Virgil’s salary was less than all other DOJ division administrators, all of whom were white,” alleges the complaint, which blames Kaul for the pay differential. “Virgil also had more years of experience working at the DOJ than any other then-current division administrator, all of whom were white and was also paid less than some deputy administrators and executive directors who are white and serve in positions of a lower rank than Virgil. “
The lawsuit claims Virgil was harassed by Brian O’Keefe, who at the time served as administrator of the Division of Criminal Investigation, and harassed and berated by Wilson. She claims O’Keefe secretly recorded Virgil’s telephone calls in violation of DOJ rules and filed an internal complaint against Virgil, “purportedly on behalf of another employee, based on O’Keefe’s secretly recorded conversations.”
“Kaul and Wilson were aware of O’Keefe’s harassment of Virgil, were in a position to stop the harassment, but instead supported the harassment by acting with deliberate indifference to it,” the lawsuit alleges.
A spokeswoman for Kaul told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the agency denies the allegations in the lawsuit.
“Disappointingly, the new complaint contains a number of false or misleading statements. DOJ denies the claims in the complaint,” the agency official said.
Just last month, Kaul was singing Virgil’s praises in announcing her appointment as administrator of the Division of Criminal Investigation.
“Administrator Virgil will be bringing 29 years of experience at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, including extensive criminal investigative experience, to her work as Administrator of DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation,” Kaul stated in a press release. “I look forward to seeing all that DCI will accomplish under Administrator Virgil’s leadership.” The release goes on to list Virgil’s extensive resume inside and outside the DOJ.
Virgil’s attorney, Madison labor lawyer Lester Pines told Empower Wisconsin his client’s appointment “was wholly unrelated to any claim that she has made against the DOJ or any officer in the DOJ.” He said Virgil was selected by an interview panel as “the best person for the job.”
Kaul did make the final hiring decision, however.
“Her appointment was in no way consideration for the settlement of any of her claims. It was never discussed by me, by any of my partners or associates, or by Ms. Virgil or anyone on her behalf with any individual from the Wisconsin Department of Justice (“DOJ”) or representing it,” Pines said.