Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke got bad news in polls Wednesday, with the latest showing her down 7 points to Republican Governor Scott Walker. But more than the polls, Burke got some bad news from her past.
Burke’s father, Richard Burke, founded Trek Bicycle Corporation, and she spent time working for the family business in the early 1990s. Then Burke suddenly took 2-years off for what has been called a “snowboarding sabbatical” by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
She had been working in Europe as Trek’s director of European Operations, when she felt she needed a break. “This had been a very demanding job and as a result, I decided I needed some time off,” Burke said in 2005 when being considered for the position of Commerce Secretary by then Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. She continued, “I joined some Spanish friends of mine and moved to Argentina to snowboard for three months.”
But a new report citing former Trek co-workers sheds new doubt on that claim.
Wisconsin Reporter reports, “Burke apparently was fired by her own family following steep overseas financial losses and plummeting morale among Burke’s European sales staff.”
Gary Ellerman served as director of human resources for Trek for 12 years, starting in 1992. He says, “She was not performing. She was [in] so far over her head. She didn’t understand the bike business.”
Ellerman currently serves as Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, but “[h]is account was confirmed by three other former employees,” according to the Reporter.
This is the latest conflict in the story of Burke’s past. Last week, gaps in her taxes were discovered by the Reporter. They found no record of Burke on Wisconsin tax rolls in 1988 even though she paid $3,514 in Wisconsin income taxes in 1987 and $3,750 in 1989.
Mary Burke has responded to the allegation, saying she wasn’t fired, she was downsized. She told a Wisconsin radio station the accusation was “ridiculous.” “We reorganized and eliminated the position that I had, and I left that organization in charge of two other people who reported directly to the U.S.,” Burke now says.