Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Committee Rejects Ann Wilson’s FPC Reappointment

But even if council affirms rejection, Wilson could continue to serve.

By - Jan 7th, 2021 01:39 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett and Ann Wilson accept a grant in 2018. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett and Ann Wilson accept a grant in 2018. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Public Safety & Health Committee doesn’t want to reappoint Ann Wilson to the Fire & Police Commission, but no one is specifically saying why. The committee spent over an hour in closed session Thursday, and then, with little discussion, voted to reject her reappointment. The recommendation will go before the full Common Council on January 19th.

The high-level view of why the council might want to reject Wilson’s reappointment is clear. The City of Milwaukee is poised to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of a lawsuit filed by former police chief Alfonso Morales after the Fire & Police Commission unanimously demoted him in August.

The committee went into closed session under the guise of discussing the on-going suit with Wilson and the City Attorney’s Office. Wilson, 73, said emphatically in December that the City Attorney provided legal advice before the Morales demotion. Council members said they heard otherwise. The committee delayed action in December because it hadn’t provided notice for the closed session discussion.

When the committee reconvened publicly on Thursday it was unclear who, in addition to the five committee members, participated in the closed-session discussion. Virtual meetings don’t require individuals to walk into the meeting room at City Hall.

Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs was one of the non-committee members who participated. “I would hope that this committee and this council sees fit to place her once again on the commission,” said Coggs. She said that during the FPC’s hearing into the police shooting of Dontre Hamilton Wilson displayed an admirable level of care for her fellow citizens when she supported Hamilton’s mother Maria after the commission chair cut off her testimony.

“I have no question that Commissioner Wilson is a person of great integrity,” said Alderman Scott Spiker. “My concern is judgment related to recent decisions of the FPC.” He referenced the trope that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. “I am concerned that reappointing members isn’t going to change things.”

Ald. Chantia Lewis said she would abstain because rejecting Wilson’s reappointment wouldn’t block her from serving further. She’s served with an expired term since 2018 and is eligible to continue serving until a replacement is approved. She was first confirmed in 2013.

The other committee members, Spiker, Khalif Rainey, Mark Borkowski and chair Marina Dimitrijevic, voted to reject Wilson’s reappointment.

FPC watchdog Paul Mozina was the lone member of the public to speak. He opposes Wilson’s reappointment. “Commissioner Wilson never learned how to effectively work within the commission and has never chaired any committee,” he said.

Mayor Tom Barrett moved to reappoint Wilson in November. “I look at different people on the commission differently,” said Barrett in December. “I think she has served very, very well.” He indicated he wouldn’t reappoint all of Wilson’s five colleagues as their terms expired.

In early 2019 the council rejected a potential replacement, retired Milwaukee Police Department employee Denise Bartlett, after she publicly sparred with the council.

Wilson continues to serve on the commission, which is scheduled to meet Thursday evening. The commission has met twice to select a new police chief, but deadlocked each time. FPC Executive Director Leon W. Todd, III, a non-voting secretary for the commission, said he did not expect another vote to be taken Thursday.

A tie-breaking seventh vote, Amanda Avalos, has a pending nomination before the Common Council. A December vote on her confirmation was delayed because an acting director, before Todd’s recent appointment, failed to request the proper ordinance-required background check. That background check was completed January 6th.

But Avalos’ confirmation on January 19th isn’t a sure thing. A growing number of council members have called for new Acting Chief Jeffrey Norman to be given an audition for the permanent job. He was the lone internal candidate of six finalists, but the commission did not advance him to the final three.

“Lots of moving parts here,” Dimitrijevic said.

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