GOP candidate: Bank fired him after he wouldn't drop out

Employer cites 'strong conflict of interest polilcy'
By Todd Richmond/The Associated Press
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 07/09/2018
US Bank
The logo of US Bank is seen atop the US Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican state treasurer candidate said Monday that he was fired from his bank job because he wouldn't drop out of the race.

Travis Hartwig's campaign said U.S. Bank fired him from his job as a mutual fund administrator at a downtown Milwaukee branch on July 2.

U.S. Bank spokeswoman Cheryl Leamon said in an email that the bank has a ``strong conflict of interest policy that includes perceived conflicts of interest to ensure we are able to operate ethically and transparently.'' She did not elaborate, but Hartwig and his attorney, Nate Cade, provided emails later Monday between Hartwig and U.S. Bank personnel that show the bank was seeking $10 million worth of business with the state and was concerned Hartwig's campaign for treasurer could create a conflict of interest.

Hartwig told the bank in the emails that the state treasurer has no duties and isn't involved in procuring business for the state. The treasurer's office once had extensive powers, including collecting taxes and depositing checks, but Republicans have spent years weakening the position. The office's only real remaining duty is serving on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, a little-known entity that manages trust funds built through fees, fines and land sales.

But Paul Connelly, a human resources manager with U.S. Bank, wrote back on June 19 that the role of the state treasurer is in ``complete conflict'' with the bank.

Hartwig had said in an earlier telephone interview with The Associated Press that no one ever explained to him why he couldn't run and continue working at U.S. Bank. He said he notified the bank in April that he was running for treasurer. Company officials told him last month that he had two options: quit the race by June 29 or resign. A human resources employee contacted him by phone on July 2 and when he refused to choose between his job and the race, he was terminated, Hartwig said.

A spokesman for the state Department of Administration didn't immediately reply to an email seeking more information on the $10 million deal the bank was pursuing.

Hartwig said he had worked for U.S. Bank since February 2016 and was making $62,250 a year. He said he refused to drop out of the race because he feels it's important to have citizen representation in government.

``Employer restrictions like this make it hard for citizens to want to be involved in their government,'' he said.

Cade said he plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Fair Employment Practices Agency.

He said he can't imagine how being state treasurer would conflict with being a mutual fund administrator, noting almost every legislator has another job.

Hartwig faces fellow Republican Jill Millies in an Aug. 14 primary. The winner will go on to face whoever emerges from a three-way Democratic primary in the November general election. The incumbent, Matt Adamczyk, is running for the Legislature and isn't seeking re-election.

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