Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Will Chief Morales Sue The City If He’s Fired?

Chief's attorney doesn't rule it out. Morales addresses media during press club event.

By - Aug 4th, 2020 03:01 pm
Police Chief Alfonso Morales and Attorney Frank Gimbel speak to the Milwaukee Press Club.

Police Chief Alfonso Morales and Attorney Frank Gimbel speak to the Milwaukee Press Club.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales defended his record before the Milwaukee Press Club on Tuesday afternoon.

The embattled chief was recently given 11 directives from the Fire & Police Commission. If he doesn’t comply with them, he could face termination, suspension or demotion. On Thursday he must provide his first compliance status briefing on the directives, the last of which is due August 19th.

“2020 has been a very challenging not only for our nation, but the city of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department,” said Morales, appearing via video alongside his attorney Frank Gimbel. Ticking off a list of maladies, including a surge in homicides and domestic violence as well as the pandemic, Morales said the department is doing what it can to keep the city safe and improve community relations.

Gimbel, in response to a question from Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Corrinne Hess, said the chief had not ruled out suing the city should he be fired. “He is an employee under an at will contract, there are several legal remedies that could be pursued,” said the attorney. “There is no game plan today.”

The head of the police union and Gimbel both believe Morales is being set up to fail, and ultimately, be fired.

The attorney brought up the delay that the chief, and members of the media, experienced in getting a copy of the directives as an example. Commission Executive Director Griselda Aldrete read the directives into the record on the evening of July 20th. “The chief didn’t get a written copy of the records until the day after,” said Gimbel, giving a time of approximately 4 p.m. (similar to when Urban Milwaukee received a written copy).

Gimbel asked if a delay could be given for records requests, which he described as a “housekeeping chore,” and received a response asking for more information. “I thought it was a stall aimed at having the chief trip and miss the deadline day,” said the attorney, a commission member himself from 1987-1992.

Morales also faced questions about his opinions on officer Michael Mattioli who faces a homicide charge for killing Joel Acevedo at a party at Mattioli’s house when he was off duty in April.

Does Morales think Mattioli should be fired? “I never had the opportunity to render a decision,” said Morales. He said the commission took over the investigation, including all of the assets.

“It makes no sense,” said Gimbel. When he was on the commission they never took over an internal investigation, he said. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Gina Barton said she doesn’t remember it happening in her two decades of reporting.

But Morales, who said he was among the responding officers at the scene, praised the way the department handled itself. “I think the way the Milwaukee Police Department handled the investigation was textbook,” he said.

“The Fire & Police Commission is on a mission to fire the chief of police,” said Gimbel.

But why? The commission granted Morales a new contract in December.

“What I think could be a factor here… the Fire & Police Commission will have a hard time looking in the mirror to see someone who has been well behaved,” said Gimbel.

He took aim at the chair, Steven M. DeVougas. A video showing DeVougas representing a client before the police department, which is a conflict of interest, leaked just days before Morales was up for reappointment, benefitting the chief.

Gimbel brought up the investigation, which found that DeVougas had been dishonest in his representation of the situation. DeVougas refused to cooperate according to the third-party investigator, but DeVougas, through an attorney, said he complied.

“The Chief is an attempt by them to distract from their misbehavior,” said Gimbel, citing no examples other than the DeVougas incident.

What’s In A Mask?

Morales and Gimbel both wore masks for the duration of their appearance. But Morales was photographed, at least three times, without one at a “Defend the Police” fundraiser held Monday night indoors at Westallion Brewery in West Allis.

“I had my mask and I took my mask off to take some pictures,” said Morales. State Representative Jonathan Brostoff, who participated in a protest outside of the event, told Urban Milwaukee he didn’t see Morales wearing a mask. Two of the photos show Morales with his mask around his neck.

Only a handful of the several dozen attendees at the event, which featured “Defend Police” signs paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, wore masks. The organizers said the event was hosted in partnership with Trump’s re-election campaign. Morales said the proceeds went to the families of fallen officers.

Morales has been spotted in public numerous times over the course of the pandemic not wearing a mask, but also has made a number of high-profile public appearances wearing one.

DNC

Morales said the directives are taking away from critical time his executive staff needs to prepare for the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to run from August 17th to 20th.

The number of official attendees has been scaled down from tens of thousands to several hundred, but the department is still involved in coordinating a protection effort that includes thousands of personnel.

How many people are coming? “It’s hard to tell, we plan for it all,” said Morales.

Over 100 law enforcement agencies have pulled out of an agreement to help secure the event, a number of which have cited the directives from the commission not to use tear gas. Departments bailing because of the tear gas directive include suburban West Allis and Franklin. “I can not send personnel if they are not properly equipped or will not be allowed to engage in appropriate actions which would ensure their safety,” wrote Franklin chief Rick Oliva in a letter.

Could the Wisconsin National Guard staff the event in place of the withdrawn law enforcement officers? “We are still working on the plan for staffing the event, whether it’s going to be [police officers] or National Guard.”

In November 2019, the department announced a plan for 146 agencies to provide 2,800 to augment the city’s police force in securing the event.

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More about the Fire & Police Commission's Troubles

Read more about Fire & Police Commission's Troubles here

One thought on “City Hall: Will Chief Morales Sue The City If He’s Fired?”

  1. Jeffjay60 says:

    It is telling that some of the departments formerly committed to helping with the DNC are opting out because they can’t use tear gas.as a defensive measure. The military attitude in police departments has gotten them into the trouble they are experiencing. There is a culture of we v them that won’t change until it is replaced with we are here to protect people, not harm them. Stonewalling until the dissent quiets down has worked in the past. Let’s not get our hopes up.

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