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By JR ROSS

Associated Press

MADISON - The lead architect of a pension plan that would have given some Milwaukee County officials lucrative payouts was charged Monday with three counts of misconduct in public office, the state's attorney general said.

Gary Dobbert, 54, stood to gain a lump sum payment of about $353,000, plus a monthly pension of about $5,300, Attorney General James Doyle said. The complaint was filed Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

Without the changes, he would have received a $5,900 monthly pension.

"He knew full well what he stood to gain," Doyle said.

The pension plan, passed by former County Executive F. Thomas Ament and the county board in November 2000, gave some high-ranking officials million-dollar payouts on top of their monthly pensions. The changes were for union employees and elected officials, and changes were enacted in February 2001 for nonunion employees.

Dobbert was the chief author of the changes.

Doyle said Dobbert misrepresented the plan's cost so the county board would approve it.

The pension scandal resulted in Ament's early retirement in February, which came after a recall group collected twice the number of the signatures needed to force a recall election. State Rep. Scott Walker was elected in April to finish Ament's term, which ends in 2004. Dobbert resigned in January.

Ament signed legal waivers that prevented him from collecting the large payouts.

Dobbert did not choose to take a lump-sum payment, but Doyle said Dobbert is still criminally culpable.

Doyle said he planned to provide legal opinion in a lawsuit filed in April by Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, who argued the pension upgrades should be declared null and void.

Doyle said the legislature allowed Milwaukee County to have its own pension system - all other public employees belong to a state system - and required an actuarial analysis before any changes were made.

The criminal charges say Dobbert indicated several times he had done an actuarial analysis when had not, and Dobbert made a false entry in documents indicating actuarial analysis had been done.

Doyle would not detail any evidence his office may have on Ament or say whether he thought Ament should be held responsible for the pension plan.

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"There are a lot of different levels of responsibility," Doyle said.

A county audit pegged the cost of the plan at $111.7 million, more than five times higher than earlier estimates.

The audit found documents given to county supervisors about the plan had significant pieces of information omitted and placed "overall responsibility" for the package's fiscal information with the Department of Human Resources, which Dobbert led.

Walker said the pension changes and the downturn in the economy will cost the county's 2003 budget $20.5 million.

"For the future what it says is the people that I put in place, that I nominate to be department heads particularly in human resources, those people have to be individuals with strong reputations of integrity and trust," Walker said.

Misconduct in public office is a felony charge that carries up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine upon conviction.

Dobbert did not immediately return a message left at his home by The Associated Press.

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