Council Overrides Mayor on Firing Flynn
10-5 vote means city lobbyist must seek state law giving council power to fire chiefs.
Members of the Milwaukee Common Council really want the attention of Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn and are willing to go to increasingly greater lengths to get it. Today the council took the unusual step of overriding Mayor Tom Barrett‘s veto of legislation that requests the city lobbyist to pursue state legislation that would allow the council to fire the chief with a two-thirds vote.
The legislation, originally approved on a 8-6 vote in mid-October, garnered 10 votes today, suggesting the council’s concern and anger on the issue is growing.
Today’s vote comes just days after members of the state legislature unveiled a bill that would drastically change the makeup of the Fire and Police Commission. The commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, currently manages the hiring and firing of the police and fire chiefs and other public safety matters. The bill does not give the Common Council any increased authority and could cost the city approximately $1 million per year by requiring the city to pay officers and firefighters who are undergoing disciplinary processes.
Donovan opened his remarks with lukewarm support for the proposal, stating “when the issue was first proposed I indicated had concerns about it, and quite frankly, I still have concerns about it.” Donovan then turned up the heat.
The south side alderman went after his former mayoral opponent Tom Barrett for claiming the legislation was an attempt to play politics with the position. “This is the same guy that has been playing politics with the Milwaukee Police Department since the day he took office,” Donovan stated. He went on to note that Barrett had used Flynn in the past as the centerpiece of a reelection fundraiser.
“Is it unreasonable for us to have some say… after all we get the complaints, ” Donovan rhetorically asked.
The measure was sponsored by council members Tony Zielinski, Mark Borkowski, Jose G. Perez, Russell W. Stamper, II, Khalif Rainey and Robert Bauman. Council members Nik Kovac, Donovan and Chantia Lewis joined the sponsors in voting to override the veto.
The twist came when council president Ashanti Hamilton, who casts the last vote in a council roll call, cast the 10th and deciding vote in favor of overriding the veto.
Flynn was first appointed police chief in 2008.
The measure comes after Flynn’s responsiveness was a subject of scorn from the council virtually all summer as the council held federal funds from being allocated to the department in an attempt to get a response from the chief.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.