"There Will Be Blood" At The Wisconsin Department Of Justice
Fasten up those chin straps. I think it's going to be a bumpy ride at the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice.
In January, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen pretty much forced Jim Warren, the long-serving and extremely well respected Director of the Division Of Criminal Investigation, to resign. As I wrote at the time, Van Hollen telling Jim Warren how to run a law enforcement agency is like Barney Rubble telling Colin Powell how to be a General.
As hard as it may be to believe, things are about to get even nastier between Van Hollen and at least some career staff members.
In early February, Van Hollen suspended DOJ senior homicide investigator and State Fire Marshall Carolyn Kelly with pay. Kelly has been with the DOJ for the past 25 years. At the time of her suspension, the DOJ made vague allusions to "threatening e-mails".
Today, Van Hollen announced that Kelly was being demoted for sending inappropriate e-mails that "were perceived to threaten Van Hollen and other members of his staff". According to Van Hollen, her salary will drop from $87,000 to $53,800 and she will lose her right to carry a firearm and testify in court.
My sense is that the e-mails from Kelly are not so much real threats against Van Hollen but rather examples of frustration with the way that he was running the AG's Office. Candidly, I get the impression that both Warren and Kelly think that Van Hollen is a buffoon - and that Kelly was not necessarily shy about communicating her opinion to her immediate supervisor - Jim Warren. I also get the impression that Van Hollen does not take criticism very well - especially if it comes from a subordinate.
I should add that I have known Jim Warren for years and hold him in the highest regard. I know Carolyn Kelly less well but have never heard anyone say anything negative about her job performance.
At this point, I have no inside information on what will happen next. That said, Kelly has already retained an attorney (the former #2 guy at the Wisconsin DOJ, Dan Bach) and I will be extremely surprised if she takes her demotion lying down. If she chooses to fight, expect to see a very public vetting of the way Van Hollen has managed the AG's Office over the last year and a half. In this event, my guess is that things will get really ugly all around.
In other words, at least figuratively speaking, there will be blood at the Wisconsin Department of Justice.