By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — The postal carrier who investigators say dumped hundreds of GOP political mailers in a Neenah apartment complex recycling bin days before the general election could face criminal charges, a federal agent tells Wisconsin Reporter.
“What we have found is that the carrier’s actions, in our opinion at least, has merited some sort of (charging) decision on the part of” prosecutors, said Scott Pierce, spokesman for the Great Lakes Field Office of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service. “We feel like there is enough information here at least to present the case for prosecution.”
As first reported by Wisconsin Reporter on Nov. 3, an OIG investigation confirmed the mail carrier dumped 879 pieces of political mail Oct. 30. An official with the inspector general’s office told Wisconsin Reporter it appeared the postal worker wasn’t politically motivated, the employee just didn’t feel like delivering the mailers.
DUMPED: A mail carrier dumped hundreds of GOP political mailers in a recycling bin behind a Neenah apartment complex just days before the November general election, according to federal investigators. The mail carrier, still not identified by the U.S. Postal Service, could face criminal charges, an official tells Wisconsin Reporter.
“Based upon our investigation, this was nothing done toward a specific candidate or party. It looks like it was a decision made by the carrier, and it was not a good decision,” to not deliver the campaign advertisements, Robert Rukes, special agent with the inspector general’s office in Chicago, said at the time.
“A lot of times, what happened in this situation, you have a carrier who felt overwhelmed with the volume of mail so they decided to discard some of the mail without delivering,” Rukes added.
U.S. Postal Service officials have yet to disclose the name of the mail carrier, or the employment status of the individual.
“I have no comment. This is still an ongoing investigation,” said Neenah Postmaster Brian Smoot.
An official with the U.S. Postal Service did not return requests for comment Friday.
Administratively, discipline could include removal from the Postal Service, Rukes told Wisconsin Reporter last week.
“Sometimes people just make decisions that are out of character,” Rukes said. “One thing we want to stress is that the vast majority of postal workers are honest, hard-working employees.”
Pierce referred administrative questions — such as whether the postal worker is on paid or unpaid leave, or whether the employee continues to deliver the mail — to USPS administrative offices.
Pierce did say the OIG agent on the case has issued his administrative report of investigation, and that postal management will make the final determination on whether to issue administrative disciplinary action.
“We are currently putting the finishing touches on our criminal report of investigation,” Pierce said. “As soon as that is finished, we will forward that report to either the U.S. Attorney’s office or the local district attorney’s office.”
He said, as of Friday, investigators had not determined whether to send their report to federal or local prosecutors.
An official with the Winnebago County District Attorney’s office Friday said the office had not processed any reports concerning the matter.
The political mailers were from the campaigns of Mike Rohrkaste, Republican candidate for Wisconsin’s 55th Assembly District, and Glenn Grothman, a Republican state senator running for the open 6th Congressional District seat, as well as political messages from a special interest group in support of former state Rep. Roger Roth, a Republican who was running for Wisconsin 19th Senate District seat.
All three Republicans won their respective races.
Rukes last week confirmed Neenah postal officials responded to the apartment complex and verified the mailers had been unloaded in the Dumpster. A resident saw the mail carrier dump the campaign literature, according to Rukes.
There were no reports that campaign mailers from Democratic Party candidates have been similarly mishandled.
Most of the mailers came from Rohrkaste’s campaign.
Rohrkaste, a retired human resources executive, ran against Democrat Mark Westphal, an industrial electrician and president of the Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO, in the race to replace outgoing state Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, who left the Legislature to become mayor of Neenah.
Rohrkaste told Wisconsin Reporter on Nov. 3 he found it striking the mishandled mailers only came from Republicans. He said he had no idea there were nearly 900 discarded political mailers, campaign literature, the Republican candidate said, that was mailed to voters in an important swing district in Neenah.
“In my mind, either reason is totally unacceptable, whether it was partisan-related or the guy is tired or lazy,” he said. “I’ve worked jobs since I was 12 years old. If you are tired, well, too bad. You do your job. That’s just how I was raised.”
“Hopefully it won’t happen to anybody again. Whatever candidate, whatever party,” Rohrkaste added.
He said postal administrators who responded were apologetic and assured him they would investigate and deal with the situation appropriately.
All of the mailers had been delivered to their appointed rounds as of Oct. 31, postal officials confirmed.