Barrett Withdraws Nannis Nomination
Interim Health Dept leader at issue, as City Hall infighting hits new highs.
Mayor Tom Barrett is withdrawing the nomination of Paul Nannis to serve as the Commissioner of the city’s Health Department and Public Health Officer. The appointment, announced in mid-January following the surprise resignation of Bevan K. Baker, was intended only for a period of 120 days. Baker’s resignation came after Barrett’s office discovered a mismanaged federal grant and a number of cases of improper notification of families of lead-poisoned children.
The absence of a commissioner and public health officer leaves the Health Dept. without the ability to hire, fire or discipline employees and respond to a number of potential public health crises. These shortcomings came to light at two recent hearings of the Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee. A deputy position has been held empty for a number of years.
The Public Safety and Health Committee rejected the appointment on a 3-1 vote two weeks ago, with aldermen Robert Donovan, Mark Borkowski and Jose G. Perez voting in opposition. Ald. Terry Witkowski voted for Nannis, while Ald. Chantia Lewis abstained.
Last week Lewis joined dissenters Donovan, Borkowski, Perez and council members Ashanti Hamilton, Russell W. Stamper, II, Khalif Rainey and Milele A. Coggs in questioning the appointment of Nannis and the access he was given before being confirmed for the job. The eight signers of the letter represent a majority of the council.
Nannis served as the city’s Health Department commissioner until 1998 under Mayor John Norquist. During his ten-year tenure, he led the creation of the successful Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program that has recently been at the center of the scandal surrounding the Health Department. He went to work for Aurora Health Care and later serve as a health care consultant, receiving approximately $500,000 in city contracts.
A Proxy Fight Between Council and Barrett
At this point the fight over the appointment likely has less to do with Nannis and qualifications and much more to do with the person appointing him. The Common Council opened a formal investigation into the Health Dept. following the mayor’s January 12th announcement of serious issues within the department. Since then the rhetoric has been increasingly polarized, with multiple members of the council issuing press releases critical of Barrett’s oversight of the department last week.
Barrett’s letter withdrawing Nannis says that he intends to nominate another interim candidate before bringing forth a permanent replacement in early April. The letter doesn’t identify who that individual is, but does ask for respect from the council. “I am not, however, going to place a qualified and suitable candidate before you to be considered for the interim position when it’s unclear whether she or he would be provided with the professional courtesies that should be afforded to an individual willing to serve.”
Barrett’s letter says the interim appointee will not be considered for the permanent post.
The city has already initiated a search for a permanent commissioner. Applications are due February 23rd, 2018.
Potential Interim Candidates
At a meeting of the Council’s Steering & Rules Committee last week Dr. Geoffrey R. Swain told the council that he has been approached to lead the department in 2018. It is unclear if that came before or after Barrett announced Nannis as the nominee on January 12th.
Swain served the department as a consultant through a long-standing contract with the University of Wisconsin until his recent retirement. He is back temporarily with the department in the wake of Baker’s resignation.
Meanwhile, Council President Hamilton has introduced a resolution to appoint Patricia McManus as interim health commissioner. McManus is the longtime president and chief executive officer of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin.
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More about the Lead Service Lines
- Chief of Staff Comment on FLAC - Patrick Curley - Mar 22nd, 2018
- Evers Demands Action on Wisconsin’s Drinking Water Crisis - Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers - Mar 21st, 2018
- Op Ed: How City Should Solve Lead in Water - Noelle Chesley, Anne Dressel, John Berges, and Helen Meier - Mar 2nd, 2018
- Alderman Bohl: A better strategy is needed in dealing with lead laterals - Ald. Jim Bohl - Feb 26th, 2018
- City Hall: McManus Lays Out Three Priorities for Health Department - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 23rd, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs Leading on Lead Act into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Feb 21st, 2018
- City Hall: Mayor Allows Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2018
- City Hall: Will Mayor Confirm Health Commissioner? - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 14th, 2018
- City Hall: HUD Halts City Lead Treatment Program - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 12th, 2018
- From Dr. Patricia McManus: Comments clarified - Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton - Feb 9th, 2018
- Comments by newly appointed interim Health Department commissioner troubling - Ald. Michael Murphy - Feb 9th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Appoints McManus Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 6th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Withdraws Nannis Nomination - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 5th, 2018
- FLAC Calls on Common Council to Confirm Dr. Patricia McManus as Interim Health Commissioner - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Feb 3rd, 2018
- Silence is Complicity – If You See Something, Please Say Something - Ald. Milele Coggs - Feb 2nd, 2018
- Gag Order for Health Department Employees Lifted by Mayor - Ald. Bob Donovan - Feb 1st, 2018
- Resolution Aims to Take Down Milwaukee Health Department’s Restrictive Communication Policy - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Feb 1st, 2018
- Common Council Alerts At-Risk Populations of Lead Risks After City of Milwaukee Health Department Fails to Notify Public - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 31st, 2018
- Key Details Missing from the Mayor’s Account of Lead Testing Crisis - Ald. Khalif Rainey - Jan 31st, 2018
- What We Really Need: Answers - Ald. Russell Stamper, II - Jan 31st, 2018
- The Administration has Lost the Common Council’s Confidence in Addressing the Lead Issue - Ald. Jose Perez - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Report Finds Health Dept. Problems - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Could Reject Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Aldermen Ask City Attorney for Legality of Paul Nannis’ position - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 29th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $750 Million to Replace Lead Pipes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 24th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Responds to Lead Crisis - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 23rd, 2018
- Legislation seeks lead service line replacement for city-owned properties - Ald. Bob Bauman - Jan 19th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Grills Mayor, City Health Staff - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Launches Health Dept. Probe - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2018
- Resolution calls for Milwaukee Water to give public lead updates - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Jan 17th, 2018
- Commissioner Baker’s departure leaves us all with many, many questions - Ald. Bob Donovan - Jan 16th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Ousts Bevan Baker Over Lead Fiasco - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 12th, 2018
- Health Department mistakes worsen city’s lead crisis - Ald. Mark Borkowski - Jan 12th, 2018
- Council set to act on Health Department crisis - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 12th, 2018
- Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) to Hold Press Conference After Announcement Of Firing Health Commissioner Bevan Baker - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Jan 12th, 2018
- Is City Dragging Feet on Lead Filters? - Jabril Faraj and Elliot Hughes - Jan 3rd, 2018
- Common Council Strengthens Lead Standards - Jabril Faraj - Dec 5th, 2017
- One Step Closer to Tackling Wisconsin’s Lead Crisis - State Sen. Chris Larson - Oct 31st, 2017
- Advocates Push City On Lead Pipes - Jabril Faraj - Oct 25th, 2017
- Lead Poisoning a “Public Health Crisis” - Jabril Faraj - Jul 19th, 2017
- National Water Expert Retracts Criticism of City Health Department - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Jul 14th, 2017
- Governor Walker Announces 35 Municipalities to Receive a Total of $13.8 Million to Remove Lead Service Lines - Gov. Scott Walker - Jun 28th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: WMC Opposes Lead Pipes Bill - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Apr 20th, 2017
- Op Ed: State Action Needed on Lead Pipes Problem - Chris Walker - Mar 12th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: How Milwaukee Handled “Flint” Crisis - Bruce Murphy - Jan 19th, 2017
- Tainted Water: State’s Failures On Lead Pipes - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Jan 15th, 2017
- Tainted Water: Lax Rules Expose Kids To Lead-Tainted Water - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Dec 19th, 2016
- Tainted Water: DNR Program Replaces Lead Laterals - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Dec 19th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Approves Help For Lead Pipes - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 13th, 2016
- Tainted Water: DNR Delays on Lead Poisoning Issue - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Dec 4th, 2016