A Really Rocky Road
Opponents succeed in delaying the reappointment of DCD Commissioner Rocky Marcoux, sending a message to Marcoux and Mayor Barrett.
Opponents of the reappointment of the Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux threw everything but the kitchen sink at him in yesterday’s Common Council meeting — including our recent column by former Mayor John Norquist raising questions about city development policies.
The criticisms of Marcoux had exploded earlier in a June story we published, but there was much more to be heard in the council meeting. Ald. Nik Kovac led the way, charging that the commissioner position “is a poor fit for (Marcoux), and a poor fit for the city.” Kovac noted three problems: Marcoux often prioritizes secrecy over transparency, can be vindictive, and displays a lack of vision for Milwaukee.
Perhaps Kovacs’ most explosive criticism: that “money was spent secretly to the detriment of taxpayers.” He accused DCD of spending money on new applications, developed by Precision Consulting Inc., despite the funds not being authorized by the council for this purpose. The funding was only stopped when the city comptroller issued a cease and desist order. A retired DCD staffer was blamed by Marcoux for this lapse at a hearing about the issue. Kovac expressed his frustration with this, contending, “they’ve even invented new illegal mechanisms” to spend money.
On the topic of vindictiveness, Kovac noted a recent phone call between developer John Raettig and Commissioner Marcoux. Raettig claims, in a letter sent to Mayor Barrett, that Marcoux threatened to ruin his reputation. Kovac, however, was diplomatic on this point, explaining that he believes Marcoux didn’t think he was threatening Raettig, but “I believe in Mr. Raettig’s mind he did threaten him.” But Kovac added that he’s heard complaints from private developers who say they are afraid to publicly speak out against Marcoux for fear of retaliation: “privately we’ve all heard it…everybody knows it,” Kovac contended.
Speaking about Marcoux’s perceived lack of vision, Kovac explained that “part of the vision for the Department of City Development is a predictable process.” And added that “it should not be some ad hoc black box.”
In a rare moment of agreement between Kovac and Ald. Bob Donovan, Donovan raised concerns about the reappointment saying, “quite frankly I’m disturbed…especially when he indicates that some crime was committed.” Ald. Bob Bauman followed up on the vision question by noting the column by Norquist and pointedly questioning, “What is the development philosophy of the Department of City Development?”
Alds. Jim Bohl and Michael Murphy defended Marcoux’s integrity, but conceded there are some issues that need to be rectified. “I do not believe the commissioner was making formal threats,” stated Bohl, but added that “there are some concerns I have with the department overall.” Bohl said he, too, had heard from a number of developers, and some staff members who have voiced concerns about the leadership of DCD. Murphy defended Marcoux emphasizing, “I do not question his ethics.” But he added that “I would agree with my colleagues there is certainly room for improvement.” Murphy also argued against standardizing the development process, explaining that “because not every deal is the same deal,” flexibility is needed.
The council, on a vote of 9 to 6, voted to send Marcoux’s reappointment back to the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. The net effect is to delay the reappointment by Mayor Barrett and send notice that there are problems with Marcoux’s leadership.