DAV Press Release
For Immediate Release CONTACT: Al Labelle, State Legislative Director
August 19, 2011 K.C. Johnson, State Commander
DAV POSITION ON THE NOMINATION OF FORMER SECRETARY JOHN SCOCOS AS THE NEW WDVA SECRETARY
As DAV told Governor, DAV remains opposed to Scocos reappointment
(Green Bay, Wis.) – On July 27, 2011 in accordance with DAV Bylaws, the Executive Committee of the Disabled American Veterans, Department of Wisconsin, met to review the eight candidates for Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs in a telephone conference. The review process was part of the recently passed AB 96 which reorganized WDVA and was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker in July as Act 36 with the strong support of DAV.
The names of the candidates were provided by the Governor’s Office. Resumes were provided to the DAV Committee upon request for additional information. Candidate statements regarding their application for the WDVA Secretary position were inexplicably not provided.
After substantial discussion, the Executive Committee recommended three candidates for the position – Jason Johns, Kent Koebke and Andrew Schuster. Former WDVA Secretary John Scocos was one of the candidates. Previously, Scocos was removed from the position by the Board of Veterans Affairs.
During the discussion, the DAV Executive Committee expressed a strong desire for a new direction at WDVA. Al Labelle, DAV State Legislative Director, summed up the committee’s position when he said, “AB 96, which reorganized WDVA, was done to give a fresh new outlook to a dysfunctional government agency with an acrimonious environment. We need to be looking forward, not backwards. Looking backwards will only bring us once again dysfunction and acrimony,” said Labelle.
On August 1, 2011, a telephone conference was held between Governor Walker and DAV. Representing DAV were State Commander Kevin Johnson, State Legislative Director Al Labelle and State Judge Advocate Matt Bills. Johnson was in Green Bay, Labelle in New Orleans, preparing for the DAV National Convention and Bills was in the Governor’s Office in Madison.
The conference was positive, cordial and professional. The attributes of candidates Jason Johns and Kent Koebke were discussed. Andrew Schuster had withdrawn his name from consideration. Former Secretary Scocos’ name was not brought up.
After Commander Johnson and Legislative Director Labelle left the phone conference, believing it was concluded, Judge Advocate Bills was asked about former WDVA Secretary Scocos. Bills replied briefly, as requested, with the terms “baggage” and “unacceptable.”
Later in the day, Legislative Director Labelle sent an e-mail to the Governor’s Office with the purpose of making the Governor aware of the Executive Committee’s feelings about candidate Scocos during its phone conference. A portion of the e-mail follows:
- Former Secretary Scocos is an extremely polarizing figure who raises extreme passion in the veterans community. He is not a unifying force, but a disruptive one with a profound number of enemies.
- Some will use his nomination to attack elected officials and state government agencies. These negative comments will be a PR embarrassment to state government, i.e. the Governor, and the veterans community.
- Former Secretary Scocos had 11 years to organize WDVA into a smoothly running professional agency. Instead he went the other way. He took an organization that performed admirably under his predecessor, Secretary Ray Boland, and planted the seeds of dysfunction and acrimony.
- He demonstrated no ability to administer, manage or lead. DAV received reports that he did not coordinate the activities of his department managers in a positive manner, but instead his poor management style pitted them against one another.
- Scocos wasted valuable time attacking perceived enemies. Some DAV officials, when making suggestions to better the lives of veterans, felt his wrath instead of his gratitude.
- The Veterans Home at Union Grove has low census in some areas, many of the reasons for this occurred under his tenure. The same can be said for the embarrassingly low number of veterans currently employed at WDVA.
- His poor judgment is best exemplified by his appointment of former WDVA Secretary Ken Black as his assistant. Black will go down as an abysmal Secretary and choice.
- Scocos was fired for just cause. It is up to the courts to decide whether the proper procedure was followed and whether restitution is warranted, not us.
- His name did not receive one vote from the state DAV Executive Committee.
No acknowledgement or response was received from the Governor’s Office by DAV about the e-mail, but the Governor did send a letter dated August 8, 2011 thanking DAV for its participation in the selection process.
On August 3, 2011, three state government officials met with Commander Johnson in Fond du Lac. The catalyst for the meeting is not clear. Many false, unsubstantiated assertions were made. They told him that DAV was the only veterans group not supporting former Secretary Scocos and asked him to reconvene the Executive Committee. Commander Johnson refused.
On the following day, one of the government officials called the Commander to say he knew a Past National DAV Commander personally and if the Committee is not reconvened, he will give him a call. No meeting is scheduled.
A letter dated August 8, 2011 was received from the Governor thanking DAV for its insight, its service to this great state and nation, and for its dedication to Wisconsin’s veterans. He expressed confidence the new secretary will meet our standards and be a strong advocate for the state’s honored veterans. The new secretary will be reaching out to DAV in the coming weeks.
DAV is a nonprofit veterans service organization, founded in 1920 and congressionally chartered in 1932, who will work with whoever is confirmed as the new WDVA Secretary to see the lives of the more than 53,500 service-disabled Wisconsin veterans and their families are made better.
The one, single purpose and priority of DAV will always be the betterment of disabled veterans and their families, not petty vindictive politics. It will always do what is right for veterans, not necessarily what is popular.