MADISON, Wis. — Longtime Gov. Walker close confidant, lobbyist and former staffer, Jim Villa, has reportedly been named to a newly created state job that will pay him $178,000 a year. Gov. Walker is said to have given his personal recommendation of Villa for the job.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Filling this job with a scandal tainted figure like Mr. Villa is a $178,000 a year exclamation point to Gov. Walker’s record of corruption, cronyism and failure.”
Villa snagged the job, and Gov. Walker’s personal support, despite being fingered by a former top Walker aide as one of the targets of a John Doe criminal investigation of the Walker Administration in Milwaukee County that netted criminal convictions of six close Walker aides and associates on charges ranging from illegal campaigning on public time, laundering of campaign contributions and embezzlement.
Villa’s association with Walker stretches back some time, and the recent secret criminal investigation of wrongdoing of Walker’s time in Milwaukee County was not the first time Villa has been intimately associated with questionable conduct. Among the “highlights” of his resume:
- Former top Walker Milwaukee County aide Kelly Rindfleisch has tagged Villa as a target of a John Doe criminal investigation into wrongdoing in Walker’s office during his time as County Executive, saying in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “I know who they were targeting. They were targeting Tim Russell, Jim Villa and John Hiller who were the three closest to the governor…”;
- Villa aided and abetted Rindfleisch’s evasion of a county ordinance requiring she live in Milwaukee County while working as Walker’s Deputy Chief of Staff and illegally raising funds for political candidates while on county time;
- In email evidence obtained as part of a John Doe criminal investigation Villa appears to have been involved in attempting to cover up evidence of illegal campaigning by Walker’s staff in the Milwaukee County Executive’s office;
- As Walker’s Chief of Staff for a time in Milwaukee County, Villa was reportedly involved in setting up, on public time, a Walker campaign fundraiser hosted by a Chicago bond trader seeking business with the county and subsequently indicted on federal charges of extortion and mail and wire fraud; [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 07/19/2005]
- Also among recently released emails from the John Doe criminal investigation, Villa made odd comments for a new Vice President of the University of Wisconsin System. In recounting to Walker’s political team his comments to a reporter about Gov. Walker’s failure to matriculate from college he denigrates the value of a college degree saying Walker has the knowledge “… just not the paper.”
Ross concluded, “Gov. Walker’s personal involvement in securing a newly created executive level job for his longtime confidant and aide continues the shameful willingness of this administration to flout the principles of honest and ethical government in pursuit of political advantage.”