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Milwaukee Voters Settle Election

May 1, 2002

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MILWAUKEE (AP) _ A state lawmaker was elected Tuesday as Milwaukee County’s chief executive, capping a government shake-up that grew out of a scandal over million-dollar pensions for county officials.

Republican state Rep. Scott Walker defeated Hales Corners Village President Jim Ryan, a Democrat, in a special nonpartisan election. They were the top vote-getters in an April 2 primary.

``Today we took the first step toward restoring county government,″ Walker told a cheering crowd at his campaign headquarters.

With 390 of 463 of precincts reporting, Walker had 95,545 votes, or 58 percent of the vote, to Ryan’s 69,368 votes, or 42 percent. Walker said he would wait until after the general election to decide whether to give up his Assembly seat.

Walker, 34, succeeds former County Executive F. Thomas Ament, who resigned in February after a citizens group collected more than double the number of signatures needed to force a recall election in the wake of the pension scandal.

Ament and the County Board approved a plan in November 2000 that created the potential for $1 million lump-sum payments, on top of monthly pensions, for some top officials.

The changes allowed the county to offer only a small pay raise to its full-time work force of 5,800 and avoid a major tax increase.

Reporters discovered that the new formula would mean a lump-sum payment of $2.3 million to Ament, who became eligible to retire in 1996, and payments of $1 million or more to several other county officials.

Ament, 64, and four other officials resigned in the fallout. Ament has said he did not know the payouts would be so high, and he agreed recently not to collect the higher benefits himself.

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On the Net:

Ryan Campaign: http://www.jimryanforcountyexec.com

Walker Campaign: http://www.walkerforcountyexec.com

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