Barrett Sticks With Ann Wilson for FPC
Reappointing her to Fire & Police Commission though she backed its reckless decision to demote Chief Morales.
The City of Milwaukee is poised to shell out hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars as a result of a lawsuit filed by former police chief Alfonso Morales after the Fire & Police Commission unanimously demoted him in August. But the part-time commissioners responsible could all continue to serve.
Morales won a court case last week that reinstated him as chief, with Judge Christopher Foley noting that the commission denied Morales his due process rights in firing him before he had a chance to comply with 11 commission directives.
Alderman Robert Bauman called the commission’s actions a “kangaroo court.” Alderwoman Chantia Lewis said the commission, including the full-time executive director, has become “a circus.” A long list of council members have called the body dysfunctional and voted to strip it of some of its power.
“I raised concerns about how the Fire & Police Commission acted literally within minutes of their decision,” said Mayor Tom Barrett about the board’s unanimous August decision during a media briefing Tuesday morning.
So will he dump the current commissioners when their terms expire?
So far, the answer is no.
Barrett’s standing by his November reappointment of Ann Wilson, even after Foley’s decision that chastised the commissioners.
“I look at different people on the commission differently,” said Barrett. “I think she has served very, very well.” Wilson works for the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee as the manager of the Hillside Terrace Resource Center.
Her reappointment is now in the hands of the Common Council. Earlier this month, it delayed a decision until at least January so members could ask questions in closed session regarding what legal advice the commissioners received before their Morales decision. Wilson says a member of the City Attorney’s office provided oral advice. Council members said they’re being told differently.
Even if the council rejects her appointment, she will be eligible to serve until a replacement is approved. She’s already served since 2018 with an expired term. Barrett previously said Wilson agreed to stay on until a replacement was found. In early 2019 the council rejected a potential replacement, retired Milwaukee Police Department employee Denise Bartlett, after she publicly sparred with the council.
Voting records show Wilson, 73, is a resident of Milwaukee’s East Side. But she did live in Glendale in 2018 and part of 2019, voting in five elections. She told Urban Milwaukee, via phone, she only remembers voting in one. “I left Glendale almost two years ago,” she said.
What was the most consequential action the commission took when Wilson wasn’t legally eligible to serve? Appointing Morales chief to replace the retiring Edward A. Flynn on a 4-3 vote.
Unfortunately for an attorney looking for a loophole, Wilson voted for the losing side. She backed Michael Brunson as chief. Brunson, who replaced Morales following his demotion, will retire as acting chief this weekend.
However, the mayor’s attempt to add a seventh, tie-breaking vote in the police chief search is off to a rocky start. The council was poised to confirm a new commissioner, Amanda Avalos, to replace Raymond Robakowski, who resigned mid-search for a new chief. But acting executive director replacement, Kyle Mirehouse, ordered the wrong ordinance-required background check for Avalos. The commission planned to vote again on January 7th, but the council isn’t scheduled to meet until almost two weeks later. The commission has cast four tie votes for a new chief.
Barrett, on Tuesday, said he was not committing to appointing a full complement of nine commissioners. State law was changed in the past decade to allow up to nine members to serve, but Barrett has never appointed that many. He did pledge to make new appointments, signaling that other commissioners might not get the support Wilson is receiving.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Fred Crouther‘s term expired earlier this year. He was reappointed in September 2019 to a new five-year term. His official biography on the FPC website does not reflect his reappointment.
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