Senator asks for Madison, Dane County records about Oscar Mayer closure

Northside business walk planned to test Oscar Mayer loss impact

A state senator is asking for records about what local officials knew about Oscar Mayer’s impending closure in Madison.

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, sent open records requests to Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi’s offices Tuesday, asking for “all records, documents or other communications with or regarding any Kraft, Heinz or Kraft-Heinz business.”

Fitzgerald said he made the request after recent stories that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation had corresponded about Kraft-Heinz potentially moving a Beaver Dam cheese plant out of state. The records show WEDC decided not to talk to the company after corresponding with WMC representatives.

Recently Dane County lawmakers criticized the exchange and accused the state of “dropping the ball” on job creation.

Fitzgerald said he wants to know what local officials knew before the plant closure in Madison.

“I just want to make sure it doesn’t happen again and that there are better lines of communication,” Fitzgerald said Tuesday. “That you’re going to start pointing fingers and say ‘it wasn’t our fault it was their fault,’ that doesn’t make much sense to me.”

Parisi and Soglin’s office say they’re processing Fitzgerald’s request. Both were unavailable for interviews Tuesday, but Parisi offered a statement saying that Dane County was focused on helping workers and that “the blame game is helping no one.”

Fitzgerald told News 3 he has not made the same request for records of WEDC.

“I’m not trying to protect WEDC but if there is something more that could have been done then let’s all figure out what that is and be able to articulate that and develop a strategy around it,” Fitzgerald said.

Emails previously released by Soglin from his economic development office to News 3 showed contact with Kraft-Heinz in March, June and July of 2015. The company announced the Madison plant’s closure in November. Executives have since said they do not intend to reverse their decision.