The city of La Crosse has paid two employees nearly $80,000 in the six months since they were placed on administrative leave for reasons officials still have not disclosed.
Another $25,000 has been spent to have a private law firm take over municipal court duties formerly handled by assistant city attorney Peter Kisken, according to the legal department.
He and Community Development Administrator Liana Escott have been absent from City Hall since May 24, while the city continues its investigation, said Wendy Oestreich, the city’s human resources director.
Oestreich continued to provide no other details on the case, citing laws for personnel matters.
But Escott said this week she received no warning before the city’s action and has never been told the basis of any complaint against her, other than a potential violation of city policy. When she asked which policy, she was told that was not yet known, Escott said.
It has been frustrating, Escott said, “not to be given a reason as to what they suspect you did wrong.”
An attorney for Kisken said he has received no information from the city, either, but has been told interviews will be done late this month.
Both Escott and Kisken still earn $38.72 an hour for a 37.5 hour work week, Oestreich said. She had no estimate on when the matter might be resolved.
State law has no time limit on how long an employee can be kept on paid administrative leave, which in some instances has stretched for years, an attorney with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission said.
Escott noted she had no previous problems on her work record, adding “I’ve never been in a situation like this.“
But Kisken, a city employee since 1992, was reprimanded in 2001 and 2003 by then-city attorney Pat Houlihan for job performance, and also placed on paid administrative leave for about two days in 2002 after a reported confrontation with Houlihan.
The city in 2006 gave Kisken $55,000 and transferred him to a different department to settle a discrimination claim he filed against the city.
Three years after Houlihan retired in 2007, the council recombined legal services into one department under City Attorney Stephen Matty.