MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin State Supreme Court will allow Marshall Burkes, a former executive director of the Wisconsin Investment Board, Madison, to sue current and former members of the board over his termination five years ago.
The state Supreme Court denied an appeal from defendants that they are entitled to qualified immunity under state law, although the court did say they could not be sued in their official capacity as board members. But the decision may not be final, because the state has asked the court to reconsider its decision, said Bruce Olsen, assistant attorney general.
The court issued two majority opinions, Mr. Olsen said, one of which the state interprets to say the court's members would like to grant immunity to the defendants, but cannot based on law at the federal level. The state has offered suggestions on how the court could do that anyway, he said.
Should the state Supreme Court stand by its decision, the suit will move back to trial court, and probably would begin some time next year.
Mr. Burkes originally filed the suit after losing his job in 1989, allegedly because he raised questions about the investment board's private investment policy. He is seeking damages and reinstatement - "whatever is fair" - according to his attorney, Robert Gingras.
Mr. Burkes' interest had been sparked by a $10 million investment in The Company Store, a LaCrosse, Wis.,-based catalog retailer that eventually went bankrupt, according to the original suit. The state lost the $10 million, an investment originally brought to the board's attention, for a fee, by M. William Gerrard, a Wisconsin lobbyist with connections to Gov. Tommy Thompson.
At one point during questioning for the lawsuit, Mr. Gerrard invoked his rights against self-incrimination when asked whether he paid money to former Board Chairman Edward Hales, another defendant, at a time when the board was approving investments suggested by Mr. Gerrard.
Also named in the suit is Gov. Thompson-aide and current investment board member James Klauser.
Both sides declined comment on whether an out-of-court settlement could be reached before a trial takes place.