MILWAUKEE (WSAU) Two officials who served under Governor Scott Walker when he was the Milwaukee County Executive appeared in court Thursday. Criminal complaints said Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh embezzled over $63,000 that were donated to help Wisconsin veterans and their families.
The charges are the first connected with a continuing John Doe probe into alleged illegal activities by present-and-former Walker aides. Both were freed on signature bonds after their initial Milwaukee County court appearances.
The 48-year-old Russell pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor embezzlement charge, and a preliminary hearing was set for January 23rd on two felony embezzlement counts. The 61-year-old Kavanaugh has a preliminary hearing next Friday on five felonies of theft and fraudulent writings by a corporate officer.
Investigators said most of the embezzled money had been donated to Operation Freedom, an annual event at the Milwaukee County Zoo which honors veterans. U-S Senator Ron Johnson and Waukesha appeals judge Mark Gundrum were among the donors.
Walker said his county office had raised the initial concerns about the event’s bookkeeping under Kavanaugh – and he had his chief-of-staff contact prosecutors. Officials said Walker later put Russell in charge of Operation Freedom’s finances. And Walker said he was “very disappointed” to learn about his long-time aide’s alleged involvement. Russell was once Walker’s deputy chief-of-staff in Milwaukee County. Kavanaugh had served on the county Veterans’ Service Commission.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
The probe into alleged embezzlement by two former Walker aides also resulted in unrelated sex charges against a third person. Brian Pierick, the domestic and business partner of former Milwaukee County aide Tim Russell, was charged yesterday in Waukesha County with child enticement and a related count. The 48-year-old Pierick was freed on a signature bond, and a preliminary hearing was set for next Thursday.
He was fired yesterday as an office assistant at the state Department of Public Instruction. Pierick was still on his probationary period, after being hired in October in a job dealing with education for homeless youngsters. It did not involve contact with children.
According to the complaint against Pierick, a 17-year-old Waukesha boy had advertised for gay sex in 2010. And he and Pierick later texted each other 115 times. Eventually, authorities said Pierick conspired to try and lure the teen into Russell’s van for sex – but the teen never approached the vehicle. The text messages apparently indicated that Pierick had offered the youngster gay porn on the same day. Russell was not charged in the case. The complaint said both Pierick and Russell had suspected child pornography on their computers – but neither was charged with that. Prosecutors said it was hard to prove that the people on the images were underage.