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Coggs and Cullen: Two Giant Scoops Please

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Coggs and Cullen: Two Giant Scoops Please

CREATED Apr 29, 2012

It's the classic Milwaukee political story. If one salary for an elected official is good, two must be better!  At least for the elected official.

Take State Representative David Cullen. 

 After redistricting, Cullen faced an uphill battle to keep his $49,000 (plus benefits) position that he had held since 1990. Undaunted (and reluctant to come off the public payroll), Cullen pursued the curious strategy of running for an open seat on the Milwaukee County Board.  While not exactly an upward career move, a victory would assure that the government checks would keep rolling in for at least four more years.

Cullen won and is now a Milwaukee County Supervisor.  That's great - except that Cullen refuses to resign his position in the State Legislature.  This means that he'll be double-dipping big time - collecting two payroll checks (and presumably double pension benefits) until at least the end of the year.

As an aside, given the choices, I'm glad Cullen was elected to the County Board.  It doesn't change the fact though that he should immediately resign his seat in the State Legislature.

The king of the Milwaukee double-dippers however is State Senator Spencer Coggs.  Earlier this year, Coggs was elected to the position of City of Milwaukee Treasurer - a gig that pays north of $114,000.  Why this position is elected is beyond me?  I mean, you would think that for a job like this you'd want a CPA or a financial specialist - not a political hack - but I digress.

In any event, like Cullen, Coggs refuses to resign his position in the State Legislature.  This means that he'll continue to collect his $50,000  State salary while also collecting $114,000 from the City of Milwaukee!  Nice work if you can get it.

In the case of Cullen, I suspect he might be able to do both jobs at once.  Consider this Exhibit One for the proposition that the job of Milwaukee County Supervisor should not be considered (or compensated) as full-time.  In the case of Coggs however, City Treasurer is unquestionably a full time position.

Both Coggs and Cullen say that they will donate at least some of their State salaries to charity.  While this seems like what Mary Poppins would describe as "a pie crust promise" ("easily made, easily broken"), it misses the point.  Constituents deserve full-time attention from elected officials who are collecting full-time pay.

In defending their double dipping, both Coggs and Cullen also argue that they told voters this Spring that they intended to keep their current positions if they won election to new jobs.  This argument is disingenuous.  The real question is what would have happened when they ran for their original jobs had they told voters that they intended to accept another full-time government position AND keep their original job?

While what Coggs and Cullen are doing isn't illegal, it's still wrong.  Two giant scoops may be great for custard - but not for politicians (and the taxpayers who have to pick up the tab).