Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Backs Less Mayoral Power Over FPC

Votes 13-1 to ask state to reduce mayor's power to appoint Fire and Police leader.

By - Jul 11th, 2018 04:31 pm
Milwaukee Police Department

Milwaukee Police Department

Members of the Milwaukee Common Council aren’t pleased that Mayor Tom Barrett fired MaryNell Regan from her role as Executive Director of the Fire and Police Commission (FPC). Despite confirming Regan’s replacement La Keisha Butler, the council is attempting to strip the mayor of the ability to control the position.

On a 13-1 vote Tuesday morning, the city’s legislative body overrode Barrett’s veto of a measure that directs the city’s intergovermental relations team to lobby the state Legislature to modify state law that grants the mayor power to appoint the FPC director.

Speaking at an early June Judiciary & Legislation Committee meeting, legislation sponsor Robert Donovan told the committee: “the changes that were made well over 100 years ago in the city of Milwaukee intended that the Fire and Police commission be an independent body. I think that has served the community well over the years.” The FPC executive director was selected by the commissioners until a state law change was made in 1988 that granted then-mayor John Norquist the ability to appoint the executive director.

The members of the Fire and Police Commission, an independent body dating back to 1885 that oversees the police and fire departments, are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Common Council.

The seven commissioners are part-time, while the director is a full-time post that leads a 10-person staff. The director is in charge of carrying out the policies and functions of the commission, including leading the process to hire new police and fire chiefs, managing hiring lists, handling citizen complaints and managing public safety employee discipline.

Alderman Terry Witkowski, a Barrett ally, was the lone council member to vote against the change. Witkowski voted against the proposal at committee in early June, then voted for the change when it was unanimously passed by the full council on June 20th, but reversed his vote at Tuesday’s meeting. At committee, Witkowski said: “I think this will lead to more politics involved than we have at the present time.” Barrett’s veto message used a similar argument.

The measure was sponsored by two frequent Barrett opponents – Donovan and Mark Borkowski. The executive director of the Fire and Police Commission in all other Wisconsin cities is selected by the board.

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