Thursday, October 23, 2008

Milwaukee County Snubs The Good Workers

The local media loves it when a public employee screws up or turns out to be a real loser. One example would be the heavy focus that Dan Bice has been putting on Charlene Hardin lately. And that fine by me. When a public figure screws up, they should be held accountable.

Dad29 caught another story in today's paper showing how a former county worker, with the help of a current one, tried to bilk the system.

But it reminds me of an old poem that I had learned as a lad:
When I did ill
I heard it ever
When I did well
I heard it never

That is how Cynthia Jaeger must feel.

Cindy is a Milwaukee county employee that works in the Economic Support Division. She is a Quality Assurance Tech, which is a fancy way of saying she is one of the people that investigate and recoup overpayments or incorrect payments regarding food stamps, child care assistance and child support. She follows up on claims made by people applying for benefits, and makes them pay it back if they were overpayed, or more often, were caught trying to scam the system.

Cindy is damn good at her job. In 2006, in just nine months, she caught $1.6 million in overpayments. In 2007, that number jumped to an amazing $2,126,623.95 that she recovered. So far this year, as of October 15th, she has reclaimed more than $1.4 million. In less than three years, she has saved taxpayers over $5 million.

This feat was so exemplary that in 2007 she was given an award from the Wisconsin Association of Public Assistance Fraud. The nomination letter, which Cindy shared with me, reads in part:
As many of you know, Benefit Recovery work can be very challenging - but this can be especially true in Milwaukee County due to the huge caseloads and staff shortages. But there is a shining star in the Milwaukee that should be recognized and awarded for her contributions to program integrity.

Cynthia Jaeger always goes above and beyond the call of duty. She truly cares about her job and this becomes obvious just in her personal statistics. In 2006, Cindy entered $1.6 million in public assistance overpayments in only nine months. She also attended 173 fair hearings and won 95% of those cases. And the latest numbers through May 2, 2007, show she has already established $408,722.24 in over payment claims and attended 48 fair hearings of which she won every single case.

I was able to confirm these numbers with Jennifer Bach, Senior Collection Specialist in the Public Assistance Unit of the State's Department of Child and Families. Ms. Bach not only confirmed these facts, but shared that this is not only highest amount collected by one worker in Wisconsin, Ms. Jaeger is the only person in the entire nation who has single-handedly recouped more than $1 million in one year.

Now this money is the State's money, and all the money recouped goes back to the State. However, 15% of any recovered money goes back to the county that recovered it. In other words, just last year, Cindy, all by herself, brought in $318,993.59 to help keep Milwaukee County's tax levy down.

What is disturbing is that even though Cindy is the best in the nation in her line of work, and has won a state award for her production, Milwaukee County refuses to even acknowledge her accomplishments with so much as a commendation.

Needless to say, Cindy's salary and benefits don't come anywhere near the amount she brings in, so she is making money for the County. Inexplicably, Cindy also works in one of the sections that County Executive Scott Walker refuses to completely fill, thus actually losing money for the County. Presumably, this is another area that Walker is hoping to privatize.

I am sure that some opportunistic business person would love to get his or her hands on such a lucrative deal. Not only would that agency get paid by the County per whatever contract they sign, they would also get to reap the benefit of the kickback bonus from the State. It would be a win-win for the business person, all at the taxpayers' expense.

Whatever Walker's reasoning for this may be, I'm sure it would be simply mind-baffling. But I sure would like to know why the County won't even acknowledge Cindy's accomplishments. One would think that they would want to crow about how not all of their workers are crooks or incompetent, as the media reports.

Despite the County's oversight, I personally would like to thank Cindy for all the hard work she puts in.

Afterthought: For my conservative friends that are most probably having a knee jerk reaction, and want to point out that these large numbers of overpayments are an example of why benefits should be stopped, I would like to kindly, but firmly, point out that the Bush administration has allowed companies like Halliburton and Blackwater, to name just a couple, get away with a helluva lot more in overpayments. And there was never any attempts to get recoupement on those billions of dollars.


  1. Good for her. She should be recognized more publicly for her work. And I doubt you'll find a conservative in the blogosphere who would disagree with that. Thanks for sharing her story.

  2. But, recognizing Cindy is part of the story.

    The vacant brain of Scott Walker is the other aspect.

    I'd say Cindy is worth more to us than dull Scotty.

  3. Recognize someone for doing their job? That is so elementary school.