Amid an allegation of an affair, Wisconsin's top health official is stepping down to join the health policy practice of McKenna Long & Aldridge in Washington.
Dennis Smith, who has served as the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services since January 2011, will start at McKenna on March 1 as a managing director, the firm announced on Friday. On Tuesday, a man who allegedly tried to kill his wife, then the top lawyer at the agency, filed an affidavit in his case claiming that she professed her love for Smith in an email exchange with the secretary, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Smith previously dismissed Andrew Spear's affair allegation when it first surfaced in August, saying he and Spear's wife, Mary, are only friends.
Smith is traveling and unavailable for comment, according to McKenna spokeswoman Courtney Smith. But he told the State Journal that his resignation isn't related to the Spear case.
"The timing of the announcement and what he filed in court are complete coincidences," Smith said. He added that his new job "has been in the works for some time."
"I would like to thank Dennis for his service to the State of Wisconsin — because of his efforts Medicaid is now on a sustainable path," Walker said in a written statement.
Wisconsin Democrats welcomed Smith's departure.
"From day one, Dennis Smith was more interested in an extreme ideology than in advocating for the health and well-being of Wisconsinites," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate said in a written statement.
Prior to his appointment as secretary, Smith was the director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the George W. Bush administration. He also was a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
McKenna senior managing director Cindy Gillespie, who leads the firm's health policy practice, said in a written statement that Smith is a "tremendous asset."
Said Gillespie: "His extensive operational experience within CMS and inside state governments will be extremely valuable to our team and to the entire firm."