Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Fire & Police Leader Withdraws

FPC Executive Director Griselda Aldrete says council values spectacle over merit.

By - Jul 6th, 2020 07:01 pm
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FPC Executive Director Griselda Aldrete speaks before the Common Council. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

FPC Executive Director Griselda Aldrete speaks before the Common Council. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The head of the Milwaukee Fire & Police Commission has withdrawn from reappointment less than 24 hours before the Common Council was set to vote on whether or not to grant her a four-year term.

Griselda Aldrete has served as the Executive Director of the public safety oversight body since August 2019, and in that time has faced a number of controversial meetings before the Common Council.

To date, she is the only appointee of Mayor Tom Barrett to receive any no vote from a council member since his reelection in April. She faced a nearly four-hour-long reappointment hearing on June 25th before the Public Safety & Health Committee where her reappointment was advanced to the full council on a 3-2 vote.

“Although my appointment received subcommittee approval last month, the climate at City Hall today sadly puts a premium on political point-scoring and conflict,” wrote Aldrete in a letter to the council and commission. “This state of affairs presages a confirmation hearing based on spectacle, not merit. Furthermore, the looming threat of a politically-motivated hold of my appointment — as well as for other cabinet members — has already cast a shadow over the entire process.”

During her reappointment hearing she received praise from one of the seven commissioners she serves, former police officer Raymond Robakowski, and criticism from another.

“Since she’s been there we have been cut off from the staff totally,” said commissioner and retired firefighter Everett Cocroft. “We can’t even go into the office… Don’t call me honorable commissioner and treat me dishonorably.”

Cocroft also expressed frustration with a failure by Aldrete to record a committee vote to add residency preference points to an evaluation rubric, a decision which commission watchdog Paul Mozina said was born out of “incompetence.” Mozina also opposes a full-term for Aldrete.

Aldrete also faced criticism from one of her own employees. Staffing services manager Arvis Williams was hired away from a human resources job at the police department by Aldrete in March. Williams said the commission has a “toxic/hostile work environment” in a letter.

Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing spoke in her favor at her reappointment hearing. Three days later the fire department disclosed a months-long investigation into a brown figurine found hanging from a “looped ribbon” in one of its stations and said the commission was aware of the incident, but Cocroft emailed the council to express frustration that the appointed commissioners were not.

The Milwaukee Police Department did not submit a letter or provide testimony for or against her reappointment.

Aldrete received more than five letters in support of her reappointment, including from newly-elected City Attorney Tearman Spencer

She was widely praised when she was appointed in July 2019. She was the third person in as many years to hold the role, but council members praised her credentials including work at the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, a master’s degree in criminal justice and a law degree from Marquette University.

The commission is responsible for oversight of the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Fire Department including hiring, discipline, policies and citizen complaints.

Aldrete’s resume was also questioned during her tenure. A resume submitted in 2019 misstated both when she taught at Milwaukee Area Technical College and what courses she taught. “I know that there have been questions and allegations of me puffing my resume,” said Aldrete in June. “I made a mistake in my resume of dates.” The original resume said she taught a criminal justice course from 2009-2012, but the one submitted for her reappointment says she taught “Computer Basics, Career Exploration and Basic Communication” from 2004-2005. Aldrete did teach introduction to criminal justice courses at Marquette University, Concordia University and Bryant & Stratton College.

Aldrete said she would remain in her post until a new executive director is confirmed. The position is paid $140,000 annually according to the city budget.

The commission has a number of high-profile issues before it, including an investigation into the conduct of officer Michael Mattioli, who is charged with killing Joel Acevedo in an off-duty incident, and monitoring compliance with a complicated settlement between the police department and American Civil Liberties Union. In June Aldrete submitted a 121-page response to an audit conducted by the council-controlled Inspector General that called for improved controls and documentation for the commission staff.

“It should not be lost on any municipal observer that the next appointee to this post will be the fourth executive director of the FPC in three years,” wrote Aldrete. “Regrettably, it is hard not to argue that dysfunction has been baked into the FPC governance structure for far too long, with too many interests pulling in too many dissonant directions, in the end undermining the vision of a strong, independent civilian oversight body envisioned by the City Charter.”

Aldrete’s predecessor La Keisha Butler was appointed in May 2018, but in early 2019 took maternity leave before ultimately leaving the job to follow her husband to Huntsville, AL where he now works as a minister. MaryNell Regan held the post from 2015 to 2018 and appeared to be pushed out, saying she was resigning as Barrett wanted “to take the Fire and Police Commission in a different direction.”

Barrett will, again, have to figure out which direction he wants to take the commission.

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