Board clears La Crosse County administrator of ethics violation

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse County Ethics Board said Thursday that the county administrator did not commit an ethical violation when he posted a comment on the La Crosse Tribune Facebook page following the death of Rush Limbaugh.

“At it’s meeting in response to your request for an Advisory Opinion regarding the possible ethics violation of Steve O’Malley’s social media post of February 18, 2021, the La Crosse County Ethics Board finds that there was no violation of the Code of Ethics as it is currently written,” wrote board chair Richard Kyte in a letter to La Crosse County Board chairperson Monica Kruse.

O’Malley came under scrutiny after posting, “How sad that this hatred has escaped the existence for ever. If I believed in hell it would be most deserving place for the likes of him. He never loved anything but hatred, racism and disrespect. Good riddence,” in response to a news story that conservative radio host Limbaugh had died of lung cancer.

Kyte said the behavior did not fall under the three main categories in the county’s code of ethics, which covers fair and equal treatment, conflicts of interest, and compliance with state statutes.

“The role of the La Crosse County Ethics Board is not to comment on whether a county employee committed an error of judgement which does not fall explicitly under the provisions of the Code of Ethics,” Kyte wrote.

The ethics board convened after county Supervisor Jack Pogreba said he received dozens of emails from people concerned about O’Malley’s comment.

“The person in charge of our county shouldn’t be making such a statement, whether it’s personal or private,” Pogreba told News 8 Now last month.

O’Malley told News 8 Now’s Tyler Job in February that the comment was an error in judgment and he will avoid making comments on any issue going forward.

He said, “My FB comment was not intended to be partisan. Mr. Limbaugh held no office or position. The comment was made on my own time and does not violate any County policy. And it does not represent any position of La Crosse County.”