October 26, 2018
Contact: Alex Japko, firstname.lastname@example.org
According to emails released through the John Doe investigation, Walker’s gubernatorial campaign staff tried to “keep [the situation] buried” because “no one cares about crazy people.”
Despite accusations of this doctor sexually abusing multiple patients and the starvation-related death of another patient, Walker’s Medical Examining Board cleared him of wrongdoing, and the disgraced psychiatrist still draws a $53,000 annual pension.
See below for excerpts from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s reporting.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Gov. Scott Walker criticized by Dems for not being tougher on disgraced psychiatrist
By Daniel Bice
Gov. Scott Walker said the buck stopped with him.
Back when Walker was the Milwaukee County executive, he said he was ultimately responsible for taking care of the problems at the Mental Health Complex.
But Democrats are saying that didn’t happen in the case of disgraced psychiatrist Karl Strelnick. During his 20 years with Milwaukee County, Strelnick was accused of having sex with a patient, being negligent in the death of a patient and allowing another patient with a history of sexual violence to impregnate a fellow patient.
Despite all this, a top Walker campaign aide said in a 2010 email that Walker’s county staff should do what it could to push resolution of a legal settlement in one of these matters until after the general election.
“Keep it buried until Nov. 2nd and then hopefully they’ll settle,” wroteKeith Gilkes, then Walker’s campaign manager in October 2010.
Today, Strelnick has an unrestricted license to practice and is drawing a $53,000-per-year pension after getting a lump-sum, “backdrop” retirement payment of nearly $138,000 from the county.
The state Medical Examining Board dismissed a complaint against Strelnick in August 2011, Walker’s first year as governor.
Alex Japko, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the second-term Republican governor, in short, let “an abuser off the hook.”
…The psychiatrist’s messy history may be familiar to Journal Sentinel readers because the paper has documented his problems over the past 30 years.
In 1987, Strelnick’s medical license was suspended for two years after he admits having sex with two patients during therapy while he is in private practice in Madison.
One of the women alleged in a civil lawsuit that he had sex with her more than 100 times over 20 months. She won a $1.1 million judgment against Strelnick in a jury trial, though an appeals court later cut the amount by $250,000.
His license was reinstated a couple of years later while agreeing not to treat female patients and to undergo counseling.
In 1991, over the strenuous objections of two Democratic lawmakers, Milwaukee County hired Strelnick to work at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex.
Strelnick ran into problems at the county in late 2006 when one of his patients at the complex died from complications of starvation.
A state investigation found Strelnick and others were negligent in the woman’s death. As a result, he was transferred to a new unit at the complex. The county settled with the woman’s family for $125,000 five years later.
…Publicly, Walker moved to fire Strelnick and took responsibility for the county’s mental health problems.
“The buck stops with me,” he said in a meeting with the Journal Sentinel in August 2010.
Behind the scenes, emails released as part of the John Doe investigation show Walker’s staff was dismissive of the entire issue back in 2010.
Kelly Rindfleisch, his then-deputy chief of staff, discouraged the county’s top mental health official from meeting with a reporter. She also said the problems at the complex were not a winning issue for Walker’s foe: “No one cares about crazy people.”
Strelnick then retired in January 2011, and the state medical board cleared him of wrongdoing in the case of the pregnant woman at the complex.
…Japko, the Democratic Party spokesman, said Walker tried to cover up the matter eight years ago and now is pointing fingers at everyone.
“He’s making excuses and blaming everyone but himself,” Japko said.