WisconsinWeekly: Sexual harassment allegations at the WI Legislature, human trafficking, VA problems continue, childhood trauma in rural Wisconsin

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Accusations of unwanted kissing, taxpayers fund a $75,000 settlement, but Capitol leaders try to keep the public outside

Of note: The national avalanche of sexual harassment allegations arrives at the Capitol as The Cap Times and the Wisconsin State Journal reveal previously secret sexual harassment accusations lodged against two state lawmakers. State Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, accused of unwanted kissing by two women in 2011 and 2015, has refused to resign. Former state Sen. Spencer Coggs, a Democrat from Milwaukee, has denied allegations that he harassed his former aide, who received a $75,000 taxpayer-funded settlement in 2015. Legislative leaders told media outlets there are three other such complaints but declined to release them.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by us, Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Andy is the executive director and Dee is the managing editor.

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Have you checked out our new Top 10 list of the Center’s all-time top stories? See #s 9 and 10 right here!


Legislature paid $75K to fired staff member who complained of sexual harassment, discrimination

Wisconsin State Journal – Dec. 5, 2017

Jana Harris, a former lawmaker’s aide who filed several complaints against former state Sen. Spencer Coggs for sexual harassment, was paid $75,000 in a settlement in 2015, the Wisconsin State Journal discovered. Harris first filed complaints against Coggs in 2009 and lost her job in Coggs’ office in 2010. When she expressed to Coggs how important her job was to her, Coggs allegedly responded, “You can’t create an adversarial situation and then come back and ask me for something.”

Josh Zepnick stripped of Assembly committee assignments after sexual misconduct allegations

The Cap Times – Dec. 6, 2017

State Rep. Josh Zepnick has been stripped of his Assembly committee posts following allegations reported by The Cap Times that he kissed two women without their consent at political events in 2011 and 2015. Following the allegations, Democratic leaders called for Zepnick to step down; Zepnick has refused.

‘There are people for sale here’: Madison authorities struggle to support victims of sex trafficking

The Cap Times – Dec. 6, 2017

Former WCIJ intern Abigail Becker reports on the state of sex trafficking in Madison. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise next to drug trade in the city of Madison, according to Madison Police Department Detective Maya Krajcinovic. Earlier from WCIJ: Human trafficking in the heartland

VA knowingly hires doctors with past malpractice claims, discipline for poor care

USA TODAY – Dec. 3, 2017 

Several cases of medical malpractice, including cases ending in death and paralysis, were ignored by Veterans Administration hospitals when hiring doctors and surgeons, USA Today found. Psychiatrist David Houlihan, hired at the VA in Tomah despite a history of previous discipline, earned the nickname “candy man” because of the amount of narcotics he prescribed to his patients. He was fired in 2015 after one of his patients died of drug toxicity at the facility. Earlier, VA conceals shoddy care and health workers’ mistakes

Wisconsin childhood trauma data explodes myth of ‘not in my small town’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Dec. 4, 2017 

Part 2 of the Journal Sentinel’s series on childhood trauma in rural Wisconsin focuses on Rock County and Janesville. Once the epitome of heartland prosperity, the area now struggles with plummeting income, heroin addiction and other problems that result from cyclical trauma. Read the Center’s earlier award-winning stories on how trauma-informed care is being used in Wisconsin.

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