An email from the Milwaukee County Executive office's then chief of staff Thomas Nardelli to then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker regarding a physician at the county's Behavioral Health Division and her work as a model, dated April 5, 2010.
Jews, people of color, gays, the mentally ill and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch all had reason to take offense at documents released Wednesday in relation to a John Doe investigation. The documents were collected in a probe of illegal campaigning in Scott Walker's Milwaukee County executive's office, but they also include emails from Walker staffers that may upset various constituencies around Wisconsin. Among them are women's rights groups.
In an email dated April 5, 2010, chief of staff Thomas Nardelli wrote to Walker about the county's Behavioral Health Division:
Chianelli reports that an MD was hired during his absence from work. The Medical Director did follow all professional channels to determine credentials, but failed to Google or MySpace the individual. It was recently discovered that she has a checkered past and has done some modeling work. It isn't pornographic, but is quite suggestive (I'm told -- I don't know her name). [Sh]e apparently models thongs and wasn't forthright in sharing that with staff prior to her hire as an hourly paid MD at BHD. John is working with Mark Camelli on a way to release her without much fanfare. John's [sic] is more concerned about having her on staff and subsequently having her Googled by staff only to learn of her 'other life' outside of her medical work. Apparently she's competent, but even the Medical Director is dismayed that she has a varied life style outside of her medical profession.
Walker replied to Nardelli later that day:
Get rid of the MD asap.
The doctor's name is not revealed in the email, and a spokesperson for the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division was not able to provide it or to confirm if she was indeed fired. A spokesperson for Gov. Scott Walker did not respond to a request for comment.
Dayna Long, president of Wisconsin NOW, questioned why Walker would seek to fire a woman who "wasn't hurting anyone or breaking any laws."
"Frankly, we don't think that a woman's private life is her employer's business when it has no impact on her professional performance," Long says. "We're always skeptical when a person's private life is deemed grounds for termination simply because it doesn't fit traditional mores, especially as it concerns choices individual women make about their own bodies and sexuality. Personally, I'm more offended by the notion that, after viewing her body via a Google image search, her co-workers would be incapable of professionalism than I am by the idea that a doctor might model thongs outside of work."
The Wisconsin Women's Network issued an official statement in response to the exchange between Walker and Nardelli.
"If this doctor was indeed fired for her previous modeling experience, then the Wisconsin Women's Network is disappointed at this very blatant show of discriminatory conduct. We believe that hiring and termination practices should be fair and grounded in individuals' abilities to fulfill the duties of their position, free of discriminatory harassment."
Patrick Hickey of the Workers' Rights Center of Madison says that most employees in Wisconsin are considered "at will," which means an employer can fire them for no reason as long as it isn't discriminatory as defined by state law.
"I think what this incident shows is the kind of work environment Gov. Walker wants," Hickey adds. "One in which workers can be terminated for any reason based on his particular moral view regardless of whether it has any connection to the work at hand. In Walker's view employers should not have to justify their arbitrary and capricious actions nor even explain them."
[Editor's note: This article was updated at 11:21 a.m. on Feb. 24 with comments from Patrick Hickey of the Workers' Rights Center of Madison.]