MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — Gov. Scott Walker is suddenly pushing state officials to revoke professional licenses for four former priests defrocked for sexually abusing children after his campaign criticized Democratic challenger Tony Evers for not doing enough to protect students.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday that the priests served in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. After they were forced out, they earned state licenses to enter professions including social work, nursing, alcohol and drug counseling, and funeral home work.
Peter Isley, a founder of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is urging Walker to call for an investigation into how the priests were able to secure state approval to work in those professions.
Asked about the priests earlier this week, Walker said he knew nothing about them. On Thursday, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said regulators with the state Department of Safety and Professional Services have lodged complaints against them and the governor thinks they should lose their licenses.
“Ultimately, that decision is left up to the boards that are legally charged with overseeing them,” Evenson told the Journal Sentinel.
Walker’s campaign has been ripping Evers, the state public schools superintendent, for not doing enough to keep students safe.
The campaign launched an ad in September criticizing Evers for not revoking the license of a Middleton teacher who was caught watching pornography in his classroom and making sexually suggestive comments to co-workers in 2008 and 2009. Evers said he lacked the authority to revoke the teacher’s license because no children were in danger. He worked with the Legislature to pass a bill expanding the circumstances that warrant revocation.
Republicans accused Evers again this week of not protecting students, this time pointing out he didn’t revoke the license of a Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution special education teacher who was charged in 2011 with second-degree sexual assault for having sex with an inmate. The teacher later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of misconduct in office.
State Department of Public Instruction officials say the case wasn’t a crime against a child and wasn’t a serious enough legal offense to trigger revocation.
Evers’ campaign spokesman Sam Lau declined to comment Friday on the former priests’ licenses.
Polls show Walker and Evers tied as Tuesday’s election approaches.