Kleefisch ignored Wisconsin unemployment problems, says then-secretary

Rebecca Kleefisch

MADISON – A cabinet secretary who served with a former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch turned against her Friday, saying she had ignored problems with the state’s unemployment system for years, leading to a crisis when the coronavirus pandemic.

Manny Perez, the first workforce development secretary under Republican Gov. Scott Walker wrote in a column in The Wisconsin State Journal that Walker and Kleefisch had disregarded his pleas to upgrade the state’s many-year-old computer systems that process unemployment claims.

“They knew this was a crisis waiting and did nothing,” Perez wrote.

Keith Gilkes, who served as Walker’s chief of staff, called Perez’s claims false. He described Perez as a disgruntled employee who left his position in 2011 after less than five months on the job.

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