WI economic development opens records on global trade venture trips

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — That didn’t take long.

Just a mere three hours after Wisconsin Reporter published a story Tuesday on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation not being entirely forthcoming on the full details of its global trade venture trips, the state agency responded to an open records request filed Friday.

GLOBETROTTERS: The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has responded to an open records request regarding its $150,000 in trade venture flights.

In the days leading up to the submittal, WEDC spokesman Mark Maley had answered all questions posed by Wisconsin Reporter about the subsidized trips. But following an inquiry about the names of the private business representatives who participated in this year’s two excursions, Maley said it was time to fill out an open records request.

A few minutes later Wisconsin Reporter filed an open records request seeking all the expense reports for the two trips and the names of all WEDC employees and business executives who attended.

Those documents show the WEDC spent $39,386.49 on the trip to the Middle East in January and $16,284.49 on the trip to India in April.

Maley pointed out the outing to India will end up costing closer to $29,000. Those additional expenses were not included in the open records request because some invoices have not been submitted, he said.

“The (India) trip just occurred in April and we allow 90 days before we close the books on a trip,” Maley told Wisconsin Reporter. “So there’s still some significant outstanding invoices that are out there that we’re waiting for, for us to pay.”

Of the nearly $40,000 Middle East tab, almost $30,000 was documented by the three WEDC employees who took part in the trip: Ryan Murray, deputy secretary and COO; Stanley Pfrang, market development director; and Rachel Best, senior event manager.

Private business representatives who attended that trip were Khemissa Bejaoui, a human molecular geneticist with PreventionGenetics in Marshfield; Todd Muderlak, president of Xela Innovations in Glendale; and Tanya M. Salman, an attorney with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP.

Reports for the India trip list a $13,600 generic expense, $1,080 in driver fees and $1,592 for flights.

WEDC staff who participated in that excursion were Pfrang, Best and Lora Klenke, vice president of international business development.

Local business officials who attended were Glaselyn Miller, director of global sales and distribution for the Lucigen Corp. in Middleton; Honey Reddi, molecular geneticist and director of sales and marketing for Prevention Genetics in Marshfield; Kyle Weatherly, president of Solaris Inc. in West Allis; and Mark Yunker, president and owner of Yunker Plastics in Elkhorn.

The WEDC also has budgeted $82,000 for a global trade venture trip to southeast Asia in August, bringing the total for the year to an estimated $150,000.

That amount is expected to increase with another trip planned to eastern Europe later in 2014.

Contact Adam Tobias at atobias@watchdog.org or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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