Earlier this month, we reported on how then County Executive Scott Walker’s political posturing was going to cost Milwaukee County tax payers quite a bit of money. The issue was how Walker failed to follow the contract he signed with the unions and illegally privatized the security guards at the courthouse and other county buildings.
Today, the first numbers started rolling in. The projected cost for just the back pay owed to the wrongfully laid off security guards is reported to be $430,000.
County officials still have to figure out what to do with both the security guards who have been returned to their jobs and the guards hired by Wackenhut, which will retain their contract. In other words, the County will now be footing the bill for two different agencies to do the same work.
Public Works Director Jack Takerian told the County Board’s Transportation and Public Works committee that he would be ensuring that the Wackenhut guards and the county guards are not working together to avoid any conflicts. Takerian cited the fact that Wackenhut pays their guards about $10 an hour, which is $5 less than the county guards are getting paid.
This fact raises an interesting point. Since it has also been found that the privatization did not save the county any real money, where is all that extra money going to? That money is going to the Wackenhut corporation, which is headquartered in England.
So for the same amount of money being spent by the county, their is one third less the return as that money not only leaves the county, but the country. The county-employed security guards will at least be spending their money locally helping to keep our local economy moving.
Factor in the inherit higher accountability factor that goes with direct control of the guards, along with the benefit to the local economy, and it makes privatizing the security guards, especially in the illegal way Walker did, all the more irresponsible.
Meanwhile, expect more bad news as the year progresses. On February 2, there will be an arbitration hearing regarding the two days of furlough Walker imposed on county employees at the end of 2009. Walker’s premise was to atone for a massive deficit. However, he then ended up claiming a huge surplus. It will be hard for the county to justify the need to reduce the work hours when there is a surplus. This could prove to be even more expensive, costing more than a million dollars.