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Wis. gov's praise of job hunter who was sex offender a mistake

Jan. 23, 2014 at 1:41 PM
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MADISON, Wis., Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A spokesman for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker admits a registered sex offender shouldn't have been invited to participate in Walker's state of the state address.

During his televised speech in Madison Wednesday night, Walker praised Christopher Barber, a welder who had turned seasonal work into a full-time job, but the man may have had trouble finding work for a reason.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday reported Barber, who was photographed waving to the audience as he was mentioned in the governor's address, is a registered sex offender who was in and out of prison for much of the past decade.

Walker, a Republican and Tea Party favorite up for re-election in November, was speaking about his role as job creator when he introduced a dozen people who had found full-time employment since he took office.

Barber, 32, took a seasonal job as a welder at Ariens Co. in late 2012 and was eventually hired full-time, the report said. Ariens makes snowblowers and riding movers.

"Each of these people were looking for a job, or a better opportunity over the past three years," Walker said. "They represent the people and families behind the numbers. These are the faces of an improving economy in our state. Wisconsin is going back to work."

Barber was recommended by his employer, who said it was not aware of his long criminal record. However, the Journal Sentinel said Barber had two felony convictions, three drunk-driving offenses and his probation had been revoked at least twice.

"Obviously, if we had been aware of this individual's prior convictions, he would not have been invited to participate," Walker spokesman Tom Evenson told the newspaper in an email.

The Journal Sentinel said state records show Barber is not registered to vote in the state.

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