Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

City Attorney Issues Confidential Opinion Regarding Morales Demotion

Attorney has previously said commission denied Morales his due process rights.

By - Jan 15th, 2021 10:57 am
City Attorney Tearman Spencer speaks at a press conference on June 12th. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

City Attorney Tearman Spencer speaks at a press conference on June 12th. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

City Attorney Tearman Spencer announced Friday he has issued a confidential legal opinion to the Fire & Police Commission regarding its unanimous demotion of then-Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales.

The commission gave Morales 11 directives in July, then voted unanimously to demote him a couple weeks later, Morales elected to retire and sued the city. In a filing with the case, Spencer said Morales was denied his due process rights.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Foley ruled in December that Morales should be restored to his prior post. “It is clear this entire process was flawed,” wrote Foley. He acknowledged that the ruling could set up a situation of two chiefs, but said blame for that lies with the commission.

At least one member of the commission, Ann Wilson, has said publicly that the City Attorney’s Office provided guidance that the commission’s actions were lawful. But the City Attorney’s Office has told Common Council members that wasn’t the case. A committee spent over an hour in closed session last week before recommending Wilson not be reappointed to the commission.

“Several recent statements seemed to question the integrity and competency of the legal advice given to the FPC. The lawyers in the City Attorney’s Office are very competent,” said Spencer in a statement. “This culture of political finger-pointing, shifting blame, and promulgating unfounded, politically-charged statements does not result in positive outcomes. The City Attorney’s Office can provide legal advice to clients, but that does not necessitate that the client will follow the advice given.”

Spencer did not release the opinion, citing it as confidential and covered by attorney-client privilege. He said it was requested by the commission.

Morales was given a four-year term as chief on December 18th, 2019 shortly after the council approved the appointment of Commissioner Raymond Robakowski. The commissioner, a former police officer, praised Morales. By July he had become Morales’ biggest critic. Then in October he resigned after accusing the commission chair, Nelson Soler, of behaving like a dictator.

The commission, via then lame-duck executive director Griselda Aldrete, read the directives into the record in July, but didn’t produce a paper copy until over 24 hours later. Morales was then demoted before the timelines on all of the directives had expired.

Spencer, who was first elected in April, was critical of his predecessor Grant Langley in his January press release.

“It should be apparent to residents of this City that there’s a resistance to much needed change and reform,” said Spencer. “Bureaucracy is very prevalent in our local government. My predecessor held the role of City Attorney for nearly 40 years. The policies that were implemented over the past four decades unfortunately still influence and plague City Hall. I ran for the City Attorney’s Office on a platform of change. The residents of Milwaukee overwhelmingly elected me to lead and usher in the needed change. I was elected with a mandate.”

“I will remain resolute in my mission on which I campaigned: To restore the trust of city government to the residents of Milwaukee,” said Spencer.

Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

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