September 30, 2011 / 7:15 PM / 6 years ago

Top aide to Wisconsin governor steps down

MADISON, Wis (Reuters) - The Wisconsin governor’s chief of staff Keith Gilkes, who helped steer a controversial push to curb collective bargaining rights of public sector workers, resigned on Friday, the governor’s office said.

Republican Governor Scott Walker’s office said Gilkes would leave his post next week to return to his consulting business and begin advising the governor ahead of a possible recall effort against him next year.

The fight over that anti-union measure thrust Wisconsin into the national spotlight, igniting massive pro-union protests and political fights that led to a record nine recall elections this summer.

Democrats and union leaders have vowed to force Walker to defend himself in a recall vote sometime next year.

Gilkes, who led Walker’s 2010 campaign, is the second top aide to the Republican to step down in as many months. He will be replaced by Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Schutt.

Gilkes said he would take on other clients when he returns to the Champion Group, but will not engage in any lobbying. His last day on the state payroll will be October 8.

“Keith did an outstanding job helping to craft and implement our ambitious pro-jobs agenda,” Walker said. “I would like to thank him for his dedication to public service, and acknowledge the tremendous amount of time and energy he spent working to help improve state government.”

Gilkes departure come as Walker’s administration was under increased scrutiny.

In August, Cynthia Archer, who worked as Walker’s aide during his years as the top elected official in Milwaukee County government, resigned from her post as top deputy in the Department of Administration for “personal family matters.”

Earlier this month, FBI agents raided Archer’s home here in the state capital as part of an ongoing investigation focusing on several former Walker county aides by the Milwaukee County district attorney.

That investigation reportedly focuses on allegations that county staffers in Walker’s office did political work while being paid by taxpayers, local media have reported.

Archer said she was cooperating with the investigation and Walker has said all he knows about the probe is what he reads in the papers.

Last week, the former judge overseeing that largely secret probe -- the state equivalent of a grand jury proceeding -- said that he had granted Cullen Werwie, Walker’s chief spokesman, immunity in the investigation.

Reporting by Jeff Mayers in Madison; writing by James B. Kelleher in Chicago; Editing by Cynthia Johnston

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