Three charged in John Doe investigation into Governor Walker's aides

Brian Pierick

Three charged in John Doe investigation into Governor Walker's aides

By The Associated Press & Jay Sorgi. CREATED Jan 5, 2012 - UPDATED: Jan 5, 2012

MILWAUKEE- A former close aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during his time as Milwaukee County executive is among three people who've been arrested and charged with felonies as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Former Milwaukee County housing director Tim Russell was charged Thursday with one misdemeanor and two felony theft charges for taking more than $10,000 from a business. He worked for Walker when he served as Milwaukee County executive.

Former Milwaukee County Veteran Service Commission member Kevin Kavanaugh was charged with five felonies. One is for theft from a business greater than $10,000 and the others are for fraudulent writings by a corporate officer. Walker appointed Kavanaugh to the commission.

Department of Public Instruction worker Brian Pierick was charged with two felony counts of child enticement.

"Russell and Kavanaugh are charged with misappropriating funds collected for the annual county-sponsored veterans event known as Operation Freedom," said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm in a news conference.

Pierick's charges are child enticement and exposing genitals or a pubic area, and could bring about a maximum sentence of 28 and a half years in prison if convicted on both counts.

Though Pierick's case does not involve the same charges as Russell's and Kavanaugh's, it stemmed from the investigation into Russell during the John Doe investigation involving them.

According to Chisholm, former County Executive Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli told him some funds were missing from the veterans event, and asked him to look into the non-profit organization running it, the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Kavanaugh was the treasurer of that organization, and Chisholm said he illegally used funds from that group.

"We also determined that the Deputy Chief of Staff, Tim Russell, who in 2009 was empowered to manage the funds...used those funds for unlawful purposes."

Chisholm also says that during his time as an employee, "while acting as a campaign consultant, Mr. Russell stole funds from two prospective County Board candidates."

According to Chisholm, Kavanaugh also faces charges of illegally using funds "intended to support the families of Wisconsin servicemen killed in action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," including the family of Michelle Witmer.

He also allegedly "converted the personal use funds donated from the salary of then-State Rep. Gundrum, who was then on active duty in Iraq," to help wounded veterans, according to Chisholm.