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Search begins for new UW System leader; construction boom helps job numbers; plus 12 more state stories

MADISON -- The U-W Board of Regents has started a national search process to replace System President Kevin Reilly, who announced Tuesday that he’ll leave at the end of the year.

The 63-year-old Reilly spent nine years in charge of the U-W’s 26 campuses. He’ll become an adviser for the American Council on Education, and he hopes to return to teaching after that.

Reilly said he began talking last fall about a transition in the university’s leadership – and it had nothing to do with the recent controversies over the discovery of $650 million in reserves, and a payroll system glitch that overpaid millions in employee benefits.

Reilly said experienced leaders “expect that roller-coaster ride along the way,” and he just wants to do other things before he retires.

He said the Education Council’s president – Molly Corbett Broad – wrote him a few months ago about looking for a recently-retired university president to help her expand her role. Reilly said several conversations encouraged him to take the offer.

He pointed to a number of successes at the UW, including record enrollments and graduation numbers amid tight budgets. He said he was proud to attract and keep quality leaders despite unstable budgets and low compensation compared to similar schools.

Reilly called the university a “bright jewel … built by the toil and sacrifice of Wisconsin citizens over many generations.” He urged everyone to keep it “brightly polished.”

Legislative leaders don't appear poised to take on cop-, firefighter unions

MADISON -- State legislative leaders say they’ve had no group discussions with their colleagues about making police- and fire unions give up most of their collective bargaining privileges.

Aides to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald confirm there’s been little if any discussion about extending the Act 10 bargaining limits to emergency personnel.

Gov. Scott Walker brought up the issue on Monday, when he answered an audience question at a forum in Milwaukee.

The Republican Walker said he was open to extending Act 10 to police and fire unions, which were exempt when the law was first passed in 2011 so they could control possible violence or government employee walk-outs. On Tuesday, Walker stressed that he would not pursue the matter – and he was only making an observation in addressing the subject.

Wisconsin Professional Police Association president Jim Palmer said it appeared to be a trial balloon for Walker’s possible presidential bid in 2016.

The head of the Milwaukee police union – one of the few public unions which supported Walker in both his 2010 and 2012 contests – said he opposes extending Act 10 to police. Mike Crivello wants to know more about the context of the governor’s remarks. He said it’s possible that his union could support Walker again in his 2014 re-election bid.

Perpetrator in LaCrosse killings will be sentenced Sept. 6th

LACROSSE -- A man convicted of killing two people at a La Crosse camera shop will be sentenced Sept. 6th.

Jeffrey Lepsch, 40, of Dakota, Minn. faces two life prison terms, but Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez can set a minimum date for a possible supervised release.

Jurors deliberated for four hours Tuesday before they found Lepsch guilty of all four charges against him in the slayings last September of camera shop owner Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son A.J.

Both were killed at May’s Photo in downtown La Crosse, where Lepsch stole almost $20,000 in camera equipment.

In his closing argument, La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke said Lepsch intended to commit murder, steal camera items, and sell them to make money. Authorities said earlier that Lepsch had old family debt, as well as an unpaid judgment from a theft conviction a decade earlier.

Defense lawyer Thomas Huh admitted to jurors that Lepsch stole the merchandise but “He did not kill anyone.”

He was convicted on two counts of first degree intentional homicide, forcible armed robbery, and illegally possessing a firearm as a previously-convicted felon.

Minneapolis chief apologies to Green Bay police force

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau has apologized to Green Bay and its police force, for the conduct of two of her officers in Green Bay last month.

Police videos started hitting the Internet Tuesday which showed the aftermath of a skirmish between white officers Brian Thole and Shawn Powell and a group of black men on a downtown sidewalk early on June 29th.

Green Bay Police said the officers used racial slurs in the skirmish, and a lieutenant said they could be arrested after one of them admitted throwing the first punch. Later, the officers reportedly asked Green Bay Police not to include their names in any reports about the incident, saying that Chief Harteau is a lesbian who’s looking to fire people.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he was “appalled and disgusted” by the incident. Alderman and mayoral candidate Don Samuels said Powell and Thole should resign, and spare the trouble of an internal police review.

The two were not arrested or charged by Green Bay authorities. They’ve been removed from the Minneapolis Police SWAT team, and were suspended with pay last week.

Powell, a former Green Bay officer, and Thole visited the city for personal reasons.

-- Minnesota News Network

Packaged salads eyed as source in nasty cyclo-spora infection

Pre-packaged salad mix has been identified as the source of a rare stomach bug in Iowa and Nebraska but officials are not sure if the salads made at least six people ill in Wisconsin.

Almost 375 cases of cyclo-spora infection have been reported in the last few weeks. That includes three confirmed cases in Grant County at last word, along with cases in Brown and Milwaukee counties.

In Nebraska, health officials pinpointed a salad mix that includes iceberg and romaine lettuce, plus red cabbage and carrots. They’re checking to see if more than one brand was involved.

Seventy-eight people were sickened in Nebraska with cyclo-spora, and 145 were sick in Iowa – where officials say most, if not all of the salad products in question have been removed from store shelves.

Most of Iowa’s cases were in the Cedar Rapids area. Cyclo-spora is a rare parasite that causes long gastro-intestinal illnesses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says 21 people have been hospitalized by the condition. The CDC says it has not identified a specific cause of the outbreak, and it’s still checking all possible leads.

State will get a small piece of J.P. Morgan Chase energy settlement

The nation’s largest bank has agreed to pay $410 million to settle allegations that it manipulated electric prices in Wisconsin and 15 other states.

The settlement was announced Tuedsay – one day after a federal agency accused J.P. Morgan Chase of using improper bidding strategies to get excessive payments from the operators of power grids in the Midwest and California.

Wisconsin is one of 15 states in the Midwest power grid, which will get a million dollars in alleged improper profits by Morgan Chase. The California grid will get $124 million. The money will be shared with utilities which obtain electricity from both grids.

Also, Morgan Chase will pay a civil penalty of $285 million dollars.

Officials delay legal action to disassemble protest camp

A protest camp near the Gogebic Taconite mining site is not going anywhere – at least for now.

The Iron County Board delayed action last night on seeking civil- and criminal charges against members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian tribe.

The board instead sent the matter back to the county’s forestry committee, which contends that tribal members violated a two-week camping permit. A one-year permit was originally issued, but the committee reversed it.

County forest administrator Joe Vairus says the site has become a squatters’ village. Before the recent committee meeting, Lac Courte Oreilles tribal chairman Mic Isham wrote a two-page letter asking to sit down with county officials. Forestry committee member Jim Lambert said he did not see the letter, but it could be enough of a reason to delay legal action.

State Senate Democrat Bob Jauch says the tribe and the county should talk out their differences and avoid going to court. The camp has up to 30 wigwams with members opposed to the Gogebic iron ore mine, for fear of environmental damage.

The camp is located on Iron County forest land, about a mile from where Gogebic has conducted exploratory drilling for the mining project. Last night, Lac Courte Oreilles tribal member Rusty Barber offered tobacco to the County Board members as a good-will gesture.

He said the two sides should keep talking.

Podiatrist suspended after admitting deceiving, bilking patients

Milwaukee foot doctor John Lanham was suspended Tuesday after he admitted deceiving and overcharging patients, by wrongly claiming that his work is covered by their insurance.

At a hearing, a podiatry panel in the state Department of Safety and Professional Services ordered at least a 30-day suspension in Lanham’s operating license. A trial will be held within 60 days to determine if there should be additional punishment. Lanham cannot go back to work at least until then.

Numerous patients complained that Lanham overcharged them. Among the evidence presented to the board was that he charged one patient $200 for 100 Band-Aids.

The board also received portions of a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interview, in which Lanham said he had to survive on the “ignorance” of patients who don’t know that the insurance doesn’t cover his services. Lanham told the board he apologizes for any misunderstandings.

He said he’ll pay to have medical ethics training and he reduced his fee structure to bring it closer to the average for his profession.

La Crosse man killed in foundry accident

LA CROSSE -- A man killed in an industrial accident has been identified as Eric Lecher, 40, of LaCrosse.

Police and company officials said Lecher was doing routine maintenance on a cold furnace – and he fell into the unit head-first. It happened early Monday at Torrance Casting in La Crosse. The company said Lecher was repairing a liner that’s inside of the furnace.

Police said Lecher may have been trapped in the unit for up to 90 minutes before a co-worker found him. The furnace was off at the time. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the mishap.

Decision on tougher abortion rules expected Thursday

MADISON -- Two Wisconsin abortion providers are trying to prove how difficult it is for their doctors to follow a new state law, and get hospital admitting privileges. The new law requires those doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform abortions.

Nicole Safar of Planned Parenthood says hospitals often reject requests for such privileges, citing religious reasons, patient quotas, and other conflicts. Her group has four doctors applying for admitting privileges, and she believes none of them will be approved.

Three doctors from Affiliated Medical Services of Milwaukee have made similar applications. Those two groups have sued the state, claiming the admission requirement is unconstitutional.

Federal Judge William Conley expects to decide by tomorrow whether or not the law will be put on hold while he considers the lawsuit itself. Republicans passed the law, which would essentially end abortions north of Madison and Milwaukee.

Construction boom at Eau Claire boosts hiring

Eau Claire had the nation’s second-largest increase in construction jobs during the year ending in June. That’s according to the Associated General Contractors, which said total employment in the building trades rose in 191 of the 339 U.S. metro areas this past year.

The group said the Eau Claire metro had 4,200 construction jobs as of June 30th – a 31 percent increase from the year before. Only Pascagoula, Miss., had a larger increase, at 33 percent.

Officials said Eau Claire had a lot of major building projects in the last year including a new jail, more construction at UW Eau Claire, factory expansions, and highway improvements. Also, a new frac-sand processing plant was built.

Milwaukee, the state’s largest metro, had a 12 percent hike in construction jobs over the past year.

Innovative crosswalk signal deployed at Minocqua

MINOCQUA -- Folks in Minocqua will start seeing a new pedestrian safety device Wednesday. It’s a lighting system to alert drivers that walkers are crossing where drivers might not expect them – generally away from controlled intersections.

The device is called the High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk – “HAWK” for short.

State DOT engineer Joanna Bush says a red indicator lights up after a pedestrian or bicyclist touches an activation button on a busy road. That’s supposed to get the motorists to stop. Once that person clears the street, the red indicators wig-wag back-and-forth, alerting drivers that the road is clear and vehicles can start moving again.

Minocqua is one of the state’s most popular tourist communities. Its new “HAWK” system is just south of the Highway 51-Rogers Drive intersection.

The crossing is designed for high-traffic areas which don’t have stop signs – mainly in mid-blocks. Several Wisconsin communities have already received the “HAWK” crossing systems.

-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander

'Jet-man' causes big wow at EAA fly-in

OSHKOSH -- Yves Rossy is nicknamed the “Jetman.” He jumped out of a helicopter Tuesday and glided with a six-foot carbon fiber wing and four Jet-Cat engines attached to his back.

The 53-year-old Rossy weighs 330 pounds when all his equipment is attached. Otherwise, he’s a tall, slim 150 pounds.

His device only carries about 8- to 10 minutes worth of fuel, and no instruments except for an altimeter and a watch.

Rossy says many people have been inspired by birds as they try to fly – and he considers himself “a bird with a fixed wing.” He has flown across the English Channel and over the Grand Canyon, but he said it was thrill to fly in front of thousands of people at the EAA – which he calls the “Super Bowl of Aviation.”

Rossy will perform again during the afternoon air-shows on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.