Following an event during which some African American attendees walked out on a Barack Obama speech intended to galvanize them into voting for Mary Burke, the Wisconsin Reporter claims that a pivotal event from Burke’s career has been falsely described by her during the campaign to cover up an embarrassment.
The article also claims that Burke included falsified information related to her job performance on her resume, a resume which she submitted before she was appointed as Wisconsin’s commerce secretary.
Burke has claimed that, after two years heading Trek Bicycle’s European operations during which sales figures rose substantially, she was “burnt out” and left for a several month “snowboarding tour.” Now, several former Trek executives claim that the story is entirely false.
They claim that Burke was in fact fired, and by her own family, which controls Trek Bicycle. Sales were not rising substantially under her watch, but were in fact plummeting, and morale was terrible among the European sales staff. This, they allege, was the real reason for Burke’s extended snowboarding tour — her family wanted her away from the company.
Gary Ellerman, a 21-year employee and head of Trek’s Human Resources Department (the article discloses that Ellerman is the current head of the Jefferson County Republican Party), said of Burke:
She was underperforming. She was [in] so far over her head; she didn’t understand the bike business.
Ellerman also claims that Burke’s father Richard Burke, founder and then-CEO of Trek, sent Tom Albers, then-president and CFO, to Amsterdam to evaluate Mary Burke’s performance. Albers reportedly found the European operations in disarray. As a result of Elbers’ review, Burke’s brother John — then-VP of sales and marketing and current Trek president — was obliged to let his sister go.
Asked about a possible political motivation for the disclosure considering his current political role, Ellerman stated:
I was there. This is what went down.
Other Trek employees — who reportedly requested anonymity — claim that European managers described Burke as a “pit bull on crack,” and “Attila the Hun.” Says Ellerman:
There is a dark side to Mary that the people at Trek have seen. … She can explode on people. She can be the cruelest person you ever met.
In the course of her campaign, Burke has repeatedly claimed that European sales climbed to some $50M on her watch. Her 2004 résumé, submitted to the Doyle administration when she was being considered for commerce secretary, claims that the figure was closer to $60M. Despite repeated requests by reporters, Trek has refused to issue any confirmation of the claims, citing the company’s status as a closely held family business.
Ellerman says those sales figures are fabricated.
The actual figures, he maintains, were at least $10M lower than Burke says. Most of the company’s overseas sales increases occured in the United Kingdom, a market well-established before Burke’s arrival in Europe, and in Japan, where Burke had no involvement.
He says those increases were sharply offset by steep losses on the European continent, particularly in Germany, the areas for which Burke was actually responsible.
These disclosures come after the revelation that John Nettles, Burke’s predecessor as secretary of commerce, wrote in a 2006 e-mail regarding Burke that “she’s a disaster.”
The accusation of a falsified past and resume adds to prior campaign controversy of a similar nature: Burke was earlier confronted with claims that substantial parts of several of her policy papers, including her jobs plan which is central to her campaign, were plagiarized from documents issued by Democratic gubernatorial candidates in several other states.
The Burke family paints a very different picture of Mary Burke, but Ellerman and the others insist that this is historical revisionism for the sake of family and company image.
It appears that last week’s clumsy “October surprise” from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele — he released 16,000 pages of emails from Scott Walker’s stint as county executive — has just been countered by the Jefferson County Republican Party.