MILWAUKEE -- She's the woman behind the man, and now, behind the controversy. Kris Barrett, Milwaukee Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett's wife, is accused of being politically active in unethical ways. Emails were uncovered showing Kris Barrett used her Milwaukee Public Schools government email account to do political work.
Kris Barrett was front and center during her husband's primary election win last week, when Tom Barrett became the Democratic candidate that will take on Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election June 5th. Kris Barrett even personally dropped off Tom Barrett's signatures in Madison to get him on the primary ballot.
Spokesman Brian Sikma with the conservative watchdog group, Media Trackers, says Kris Barrett was politically active while serving as a Milwaukee Public School District teacher. Media Trackers acquired Kris Barrett's official school emails from early 2011, that show she used her account once to encourage five fellow teachers to campaign against former County Executive Jeff Stone and to encourage Democratic State Senator Spencer Coggs and Democratic State Representative Tamara Grigsby to "vote against Gov. Walker's 'repair bill.'"
A spokeswoman with the Milwaukee Public School District has confirmed both emails are against the school district's code of ethics and internet usage policy.
Tom Barrett calls the emails irrelevant in the current recall race. "Of course they're going to drag my wife into this. I would not be surprised if they dragged my kids into this. They will do anything they can because they are fighting for their life, because they cannot defend Scott Walker's record on jobs, so if they want to tarnish my wife, that's what they're going to do. They are viscous," Barrett said.
Walker backed off the Media Trackers report, even though he's been repeatedly criticized for having staffers recently charged after a John Doe investigation, for using taxpayer time and email accounts for political purposes, while Walker was serving as Milwaukee County Executive.
"I've tried to stay hands off family, unless they get directly involved in the campaign, and I don't know the particulars in that case," Walker said.
"This goes to a level of relevance here because of who she is and the type of activity she engages in, and she's often a surrogate for the campaign," Sikma said.
Kris Barrett was laid off last year by MPS because of budget cuts. She currently works for the Wauwatosa School District.
The spokeswoman for MPS says if Kris Barrett was a current employee, the punishment would depend on the severity of the offense.