Soglin says he was threatened politically if he spoke out on 911 problems

Spokeswoman for county executive says mayor is mistaken
Soglin says he was threatened politically if he spoke out on 911 problems
Paul Soglin

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he was threatened politically by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi over his statements on problems at the Dane County 911 Center.

Soglin said his campaign manager received two phone calls from Parisi’s Chief of Staff Josh Wescott about the mayor’s criticism of the 911 Center. Madison fire and police officials have been the most outspoken about slow answer times of 911 emergency calls and slow dispatch times getting their crews out the door.

“What’s been real curious is over the last year, there have been two telephone calls made to my campaign manager on this subject,” Soglin said. “Telephone calls which were clearly designed to indicate that I was going to have political problems for having raised these issues. One of the things that came out of this was a reminder of how popular the county executive was, and it was not a good idea for me to challenge somebody authoritatively who was that popular.”

Soglin has not stopped criticizing the 911 Center since his campaign manager received the call and Parisi has not endorsed another candidate in the 2015 Madison mayoral race.

Phone calls to Soglin’s campaign manager, Melissa Mulliken, were not returned. Wescott also did not return an email or text asking for comment.

Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for Wescott and the county executive’s office, emailed a statement to News 3 that said, “Mayor Soglin is mistaken about phone conversations he did not participate in.”

“Melissa Mulliken is not only Mayor Soglin’s campaign manager and policy adviser, she also has frequent contact with many Dane County staff in her work as a lobbyist,” Conklin said in the statement. “A few weeks ago on his way to work, the executive’s chief of staff received a call from Melissa Mulliken, who had heard a rumor, which was false, that the county executive had endorsed one of Mayor Soglin’s opponents. She expressed her desire for the executive not to endorse against Mayor Soglin in his upcoming election. She also asked to be kept informed of changes and developments on issues impacting city-county relations.”

Soglin made the comments during an interview on an open records request the county recently filed with two Madison Fire Department assistant chiefs and a Madison alder who serve on the 911 Center Board regarding a recent report highlighting problems at the 911 Center.

“We can’t answer this request fast enough,” Soglin said. “I can’t wait for the county executive to get this information and for the public to get it, so they get a better idea as to (the problems) going on.”

Soglin said the county could have called the city to ask for the information instead of filing an open records request, but did not.

Conklin said the open records request was made because “in working to improve the 911 Center governance, it is important that all parties have access to all the same data and information on priority dispatch so we can reach our mutual goal of public safety and protection.”