Michael Horne

Abele Makes Illegal Appointment to Wisconsin Center

His appointments by law must live in suburbs but he appointed city resident Andy Nunemaker.

By - Nov 19th, 2013 03:53 pm
Chris Abele

Chris Abele

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is a big-picture guy — the word “vision” is often included in stories about him.

But when it comes to details, his skills seem lacking.

For example: his illegal appointment of Andy Nunemaker to the 15-member Wisconsin Center District board.

The district owns and operates the Wisconsin Center, the Milwaukee Theater and the U.S. Cellular Arena downtown. According to the Wisconsin Blue Book, the Milwaukee County Executive gets to appoint two private citizens to the district board. Abele fulfilled this responsibility by naming President Jeff Sherman of OnMilwaukee.com and Nunemaker, the President of Dynamis Software Corp. as his choices.

Fair enough. These are good, solid citizens who have the interest of the community at heart. Nice Big Picture move.

But then there are the details, and with them is revealed a spectacular Abele mistake.

For those details, we turn to the law governing the Wisconsin Center District, specifically Chapter 229/Sub11/42/4d, of the Wisconsin Statutes which reads:

the 2 private sector entity members [appointed by the County Executive] shall reside in the county but may not reside in the sponsoring municipality.

 [For “county” read Milwaukee, and for “sponsoring municipality” read City of Milwaukee.–Ed.]

In the case of Sherman, this significant requirement of the law is met. He and his family live in the Village of Shorewood.

But for Nunemaker, it is a different story.

It is no secret that he has lived in the City of Milwaukee since returning here in 2002 after living abroad and elsewhere in the country as an executive with GE before starting his own businesses. In 2004 he bought a home on N. Terrace Avenue just doors away from his current 26-room mansion, bought in 2011.

Nunemaker is a House Confidential Honoree, and has confessed his love for his east side neighborhood. This man is simply not suburban material.

As Nunemaker told a reporter in 2012 while discussing his love for his home and neighborhood:

“I don’t think I’d ever want to move beyond a half mile of here – no farther than that.”

Nor can Abele say that he is unfamiliar with Nunemaker’s residence. It is one of the few in the city to compare with that of Abele, himself a House Confidential Honoree. [Abele’s is bigger, though — it is the city’s largest private home.]

Chris Abele and Andy Nunemaker. Photo by Emily Bunzel.

Chris Abele and Andy Nunemaker. Photo by Emily Bunzel.

In fact, Urban Milwaukee was at the Nunemaker residence in March, 2013 when Abele was a co-host with Nunemaker at a fundraiser for Fair Wisconsin and Equality Wisconsin [since merged], where the two provided a $5,000 matching gift for the gay rights organizations at an event featuring Dan Choi.

It appears Nunemaker has only one option if he wishes to serve on the board. He would have to move to one of the county’s 18 other municipalities. It is not even certain if Nunemaker will have to go through the trouble of resigning his position, since he was not entitled to hold it in the first place.

The law provides for the immediate expiration of the term on the board if, “A member that is subject to a residency requirement establishes a nonqualifying residence.”

It is silent on the matter of what happens to a member who never met the residency requirement in the first place. We will let the lawyers sort out Nunemaker’s legal limbo, but it appears that he is not now, and never was a legal member of the board. Maybe Franklyn Gimbel, board president, might add his counsel.

Why did nobody on Abele’s staff read the law regarding his appointment authority?

Abele’s office did not respond to an inquiry on the subject.

Categories: Politics

5 thoughts on “Abele Makes Illegal Appointment to Wisconsin Center”

  1. just a moment of snark…I didn’t think the state cared about residency requirements anymore!

  2. Alex Runner says:

    Or we could change the law…what’s the reason for it?

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Alex I believe the reason is that Mayor Barrett gets a number of appointments so the idea is to balance the representation out.

  4. Bruce Thompson says:

    The law on the Milwaukee library board has a similar provision (but only one seat was involved as I recall).

  5. Patty PT says:

    While you are checking into the Wisconsin Center District Board rules, you may want to look at what the term limits are for each board member. There may be a few members on there who have overstayed their terms. Can you look into that?

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