Thank you, Senator Roessler and audit committee members. Good morning. I must admit that appearing before you as many times as I have in the past few months, I’m beginning to feel like a member of the committee.
Seriously, there are worse things than being a student of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, and my interactions with all of you over the last several months have added to my appreciation for the work that all of you – and our state auditor Jan Mueller and her staff at the Legislative Audit Bureau – do. Thank you for those efforts, and for the opportunity to continue the dialogue on the important issues before us.
When I wrote to the co-chairs of this committee on August 23rd and requested this audit, I told them that I wanted the people of Wisconsin to have every confidence that their public university system respects, and properly invests, in the employees who serve UW students, campuses and communities all over the state. I also indicated that a review by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau would reassure the public and strengthen actions that the Board of Regents, the chancellors, and I would be taking during our own thorough look at employment policies and practices.
I am pleased to report that the UW System has been working diligently to review and reform policies and procedures with the Board of Regents and the Chancellors. We have now taken numerous actions, including:
- Suspending the offering of new administrative back-up appointments in the UW System, effective July 26th.
- Submitting a report to the co-chairs of this committee on September 2nd in response to their questions regarding the use of so-called “back-up” appointments. The report included a detailed listing by campus, and at UW System, of every employee with, or in, a “back-up” appointment.
- Passing an eight-point resolution at the September 9th Board of Regents’ meeting which identified specific actions to be taken to reform our unclassified staff employment policies and practices, including requiring my approval of any settlements involving termination of limited employees; revision to our sick leave policy; and assurances that employees charged with a felony will be immediately investigated and disciplinary action, if any, will be determined in a timely manner. Regent President David Walsh, who as you noticed is here with me today, can explain more about the Regent actions in a moment.
- Testifying before this committee on September 13th and responding to your questions about the September 2nd report.
- Strengthening our sick leave policy for UW System unclassified staff by requiring a written certification from a health care provider of the medical necessity for use of sick leave for absences of more than 5 days, and in cases of suspected abuse regardless of the length of the absence. This makes the UW System sick leave policy the most stringent of all state agencies, including the policy that applies to state legislators and staff.
- Appointing a committee to make recommendations of changes that will balance due process requirements with the need to act expeditiously in disciplinary matters, particularly those involving criminal activity. Again, I’ll defer to Regent Walsh to elaborate on this reform measure.
- Strengthening our internal audit function in a number of important ways, including:
- Renaming the Business and Finance committee the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee;
- Officially designating the Vice Chair of the Business and Finance Committee, Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler, as the audit liaison to the Board of Regents;
- Authorizing any Regent to submit a request for an audit, or review, for consideration by the Committee through the Audit Liaison;
- Requiring the audit plan be presented to the Committee for approval;
- Providing the Audit Director unfettered access to the President and the Board;
- Requiring the Director to meet at least quarterly with the President in a private conference; and
- Revising the organizational chart to formalize the special reporting and access relationship between the Audit Director and the Board, and the Audit Director and the President.
So, I am happy to discuss these and other changes that we are making and outline the reviews still have under way. My hope is that we have not only shown our commitment to rebuilding a long-term, productive, trustworthy relationship with the public and the Legislature, but that we have also established a solid foundation for the Legislative Audit Bureau to undertake its assessment. We will work with you and the Legislative Audit Bureau on that and will provide access and as much assistance as we can.
Before I turn this over to our Regent President, let me point out that we are also joined today by UW System colleagues associate vice president for human resources, Al Crist; director of operations review and audit, Ron Yates; and general counsel, Patricia Brady. They are available to help in the question and answer period as needed.
As I mentioned earlier, the Board of Regents and I believe have made substantial progress in tightening up our employment practices, and the leadership of our Regent President has been very, very instrumental in our progress. David Walsh is a proud alumnus of the UW-Madison, and has given substantial time and resources to his alma mater for more than three decades now.
Let me turn this over to David for a few brief remarks from him, and then we’ll do our best to respond to your questions.
Related: Regent David Walsh’s Testimony