Does Charlene Really Want To Be Like Mike?
Earlier this year, Milwaukee School Board member Charlene Hardin challenged former Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee Jr. in the primary election for McGee's seat on the Common Council. She lost . The big question now is whether Hardin's recent junket to Philadephia might result in her ending up more "like Mike" than she originally planned?
This week, the local newspaper reported that Hardin took a taxpayer-funded trip to Philadelphia in late July purportedly to attend a school safety conference. According to organizers, Hardin only showed up on the last day of the conference and then only for a few minutes (to grab some free food).
The story gets stranger. The trip was not authorized by the President of the Milwaukee School Board - who is supposed to sign off on any out-of-state travel by School Board members. Rather, the trip was paid for through the travel budget of the Milwaukee High School of the Arts! Hardin was accompanied on the trip by a data processing secretary(!) from the high school.
Hardin claims that she attended the event but is unable to remember who any of the speakers were. She also claims to have visited two local high schools during the trip - but is again unable to provide any details. Conference organizers maintain that the reason she doesn't remember anything about the sessions is because she wasn't there!
So where in the world was Waldo, I mean, Charlene?
Was she at the conference but simply maintaining a low profile (except for her boisterous trip to the free food line on the final day)? Was she sightseeing at the Liberty Bell? Was she on a bus to Atlantic City? Inquiring minds want to know!
Perhaps unfortunately for Hardin, some of those inquiring minds work for the District Attorney's Office.
I don't know how travel reimbursements are processed by MPS? When I worked for the Federal government, I was required to submit travel vouchers including receipts following every out-of-state conference that I attended. I was also required to certify that the expenses were legitimately incurred.
If, for the sake of argument, Hardin really didn't attend the conference - it would be interesting to see what paperwork she has filled out. It would also be interesting to see whether any of that paperwork contains representations that may be less than accurate.
It shouldn't be too tough to figure this one out. Hardin either registered at the conference or she didn't. Hardin either attended the sessions or she didn't. Hardin either stayed at the conference hotel or she didn't. Hardin either went on a "fact-finding" safety trip to certain schools or she didn't. If Hardin did all of these things, witnesses and records will support her claims - and the matter can be disposed of easily and quickly.
If she didn't do any of the above though, the question for the DA's Office will be whether taking a taxpayer-funded vacation to Philadelphia is against the law. If the DA's Office says "no", the question for them will be "why not"?
The Journal Sentinel Editorial Board suggests that Hardin should repay the taxpayers for the cost of her trip. I certainly think that's a good start. If the trip was completely bogus however, it's only a start!
Who knows where this all ends. The worst case scenario for Ms. Hardin though is that she may find herself ending up more like Mike than she originally planned when she ran against MIchael McGee Jr. last February.