“Toxic” Work Environment at DNC Cited
Investigation launched, top two officials barred from entering DNC offices.
Milwaukee’s effort to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention has hit its first major public stumbling block. The top two employees on the host committee have been accused of creating a “toxic” and “unstable” working environment.
Adam Alonso, the chief of staff, has been placed on paid administrative leave. Organization executive director Liz Gilbert, 30, has been told to stay away from the organization’s Milwaukee Center office and avoid contacting staff while law firm Foley & Lardner conducts an investigation.
“Adam Alonso has consistently bullied and intimidated staff members, but of note is that this is primarily directed at the women on staff. Resulting in a culture that coddles male senior advisors and consultants who have no clear role or clear lines of management,” wrote an anonymous group of “senior women from the host committee” to the committee’s five-member board. The letter, dated Thursday, January 30th, said the concerns were brought to Gilbert’s attention in November, but she had defended Alfonso.
Barrett’s office did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
The public face of the organization seemed to have a strong component of women. In presentations to the Common Council, female employees, many in leadership positions, were often the only members to speak. Alonso has not appeared before the council.
In a letter to employees, the board said it learned of the concerns over the weekend and opened a formal investigation. It provided written support for employees and encouraged them to come forward to the third-party investigation team with concerns.
The DNC host committee board includes Gilbert, Godfrey & Kahn attorney Rebeca M. López, Arenberg Holdings founder John W. Miller, Dohmen Company general counsel Michael O’Neil and UW-Milwaukee vice chancellor of global inclusion and engagement Joan Prince. Barrett and U.S. Representative Gwen Moore chair the effort. Gilbert did not sign the letter to the staff.
Both Gilbert and Alonso are veterans of the New Jersey Democratic Party and were still getting paid as consultants while also working in Milwaukee. But Alonso lost his $15,000-per-month Garden State gig after the DNC news broke Monday evening. Gilbert’s work was reportedly finished by December, having been paid $5,000 over the last quarter of 2019.
Gilbert, a Florida native, was named executive director in May 2019. She graduated from UW-Madison and was an intern with the state Democratic Party. She was most recently executive director of New Jersey’s Democratic Party.
Alonso, 35, served as deputy chief of staff to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy until May 2018 and works as a strategist through his firm, The Cratos Group.
Chief among the host committee’s responsibilities is raising $70 million to fund the convention, but a separate entity, the Democratic National Convention Committee, is run by Joe Solmonese and controlled by the national party, which runs the convention itself.
The convention will be held from July 13th through 16th.
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