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Wisconsin State Employee Fired After Telling Co-Workers About Free Photo ID Policy

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By HVnews on September 9, 2011


Chris Larsen works in the mail room at the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Well, he did, right up until he sent an email Thursday morning to all employees at the agency’s headquarters explaining that the Department of Transportation would provide photo IDs to people for free, only if they specifically asked to have the $28 fee waived.

A couple of hours after sending the email Larsen was fired.

“It’s insane,” he said, the Journal Sentinel reports. So why did he send the email?

In May, Wisconsin Republicans “approved a requirement that voters show photo ID at the polls starting next year. They also told the DOT to give out free IDs for voting purposes to ensure the ID requirement was not an illegal poll tax. The department began giving out the free IDs in July but told employees in a memo to provide them for free only if people asked not to be charged. If they don’t ask, they are charged $28.”

Let’s get this straight. According to the news report, Republicans passed a law requiring a photo ID, but because the cost of a photo ID could be construed as an illegal polling tax — a tax or fee required in order to vote, which was made unconstitutional under the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1964 — IDs in Wisconsin are free. But rather than just give out a photo ID (we’re assuming these are non-driving photo IDs) for free, they shrewdly tried to continue and charge people for them.

The memo in question, written by Steve Krieser, executive secretary at the Department of Transportation, instructs DMV employees: “While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it.”

There may not be technically anything illegal about this, but it seems ethically challenged, to say the least. John Murray, the executive assistant at the Department of Safety and Professional Services, confirmed Larsen, 38, had been fired for a series of documented work rule violations, including past instances of inappropriately using work email.

Let’s be honest, that’s what people say when they fire someone for bucking the system. To get fired for inappropriately using work email a person would have to really, really, inappropriately use that work email.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he has arranged for a meeting between Larsen, a representative from the state Department of Safety and Professional Services and himself to discuss the situation. No date for that meeting has yet been set.

“Regardless of Mr. Larsen’s work history, they let him go after he sent the email, not before,” Erpenbach told Madison.com. “Anybody with a pulse would believe he was let go because of that email.”

The question, however, is why didn’t Larsen just send the email from his personal account to family and friends and ask them to pass this along. Or go to a newspaper first. What he did was more or less ethically appropriate, but not exactly appropriate for his job. People have certainly been fired for less.

The “Sly in the Morning” show on WTDY-AM (1670) in Madison first reported on Larsen’s termination.

Here’s the full text of Larsen’s email:

“Do you know someone who votes that does not have a State ID that meets requirements to vote? Tell them they can go to the DMV/DOT and get a free ID card. However they must ask for the free ID. a memo was sent out by the 3rd in command of the DMV/DOT. The memo specifically told the employees at the DMV/DOT not to inform individuals that the ID’s are free. So if the individuals seeking to get the free ID does not ask for a free ID, they will have to pay for it!!

“Just wanted everyone to be informed!! REMEMBER TO TELL ANYONE YOU KNOW!! ANYONE!! EVEN IF THEY DON’T NEED THE FREE ID, THEY MAY KNOW SOMEONE THAT DOES!! SO TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!”

Perhaps he should have been fired for the egregious use of ALL CAPS and multiple exclamation points.

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