Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, violated a state ethics law when he authored legislation to financially benefit his wife, a liberal advocacy group alleges in a complaint.
Olsen has not responded to the complaint. But in an interview Friday, his wife called the allegation "ridiculous."
The complaint, filed Friday with the state's Government Accountability Board ,says Olsen inserted language in a bill that would allow a nonprofit headed by his wife to establish a charter school, and thus qualify for additional state funding.
"Sen. Luther Olsen believes he is above the law and that he can use his office to benefit himself and his wife," said Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, the group that filed the complaint...
Olsen co-sponsored a bill that would allow cooperative educational service agencies, known as CESAs, to establish independent charter schools.
CESAs are regional nonprofits created by the Legislature to provide education services to school districts. Olsen's wife, Joan Wade, is the agency administrator of CESA 6...
CESA 6 could benefit under the bill, because the agency would then be permitted to move forward with a proposal to turn an environmental center it runs into a charter school. The bill would provide funding for each child that enrolls in a CESA charter school.
The Senate Education Committee, which Olsen chairs, debated the bill Tuesday. As initially written, the bill would have only allowed CESAs to establish charter schools within their boundaries. But Olsen and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, offered an amendment to the bill - which was ultimately approved - to change that provision and allow CESAs to set up the schools outside their jurisdiction...
[Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee] asked Olsen whether there was a specific case he was referring to. Olsen chuckled as he responded, "There could be."
The CESA administered by Olsen's wife operates the Fallen Timbers Environmental Center for the six school districts that own it. The center is located near Seymour...
A representative of one of the six districts that owns the environmental center said Friday there have been no public discussions similar to what Olsen described...
But Wade, Olsen's wife, readily admitted Friday she has considered a scenario in which the environmental center would be converted into a charter school and run by CESA 6...
But Ross of One Wisconsin Now said Olsen's action on the charter school bill is different because it directly benefits his wife by providing her employer with increased financial stability.
"If you were in charge of an organization and that organization were to have a guaranteed source of funding, you have pretty much guaranteed yourself continued employment," Ross said Friday. "I think that's fair to say."...
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Allegation: Authoring legislation to benefit wife's charter school operation?
“Senator faces ethics complaint.” Baraboo News Republic (WI) 6/11/2011