DeVougas Resigns From Fire & Police Commission
Attorney was subject of police video leak that resulted in ethics investigation.
The Fire & Police Commission, Milwaukee’s police and fire oversight board, has suffered its second resignation in five months.
Steven M. DeVougas, an attorney, resigned from the commission Monday.
He follows Raymond Robakowski, who resigned unexpectedly in October.
The commission has been engulfed in controversy for over a year, and DeVougas has often found himself at the center of it.
In December 2019, a police department leak showed that DeVougas represented a client, Kalan Haywood, before the police department, a conflict of interest.
The leak benefitted Alfonso Morales, who was serving out the remainder of former chief Edward A. Flynn‘s term and seeking a four-year contract. It shined the spotlight on DeVougas who was then chair of the FPC and was seemed in no hurry to give Morales his contract. The controversy pushed the FPC to take up the matter and Morales was awarded the contract, with DeVougas voting no.
DeVougas ended up being the subject of an ongoing investigation by the city’s Ethics Board. The board has discussed DeVougas’ lack of cooperation with its investigation.
That quick demotion triggered a successful lawsuit from Morales. A judge ruled he was denied his due process rights and reinstated the chief. Morales remains in retirement and is reportedly negotiating a settlement with the city.
Now DeVougas is leaving. But not without blaming the city’s political culture for resisting change.
“Although we are not perfect, I have found my fellow Commissioners to be dedicated civil servants. We may have differences of opinion, but we are generally cordial and have a professional and collegial relationship. We have open and honest conversations about the decisions we make and how we get there. I have never met a group of people so dedicated to doing the right thing the right way. However, what I have seen is a concerted effort by various entities and individuals to undermine the credibility and the authority of the FPC. The ‘powers that be’ benefit from weakening the Commission. They do not want us to push for change and to hold people accountable,” wrote DeVougas.
The commission has struggled to enact change. After Robakowski resigned following an argument with Soler, the six remaining members tied repeatedly in selecting a new chief.
A seventh, tie-breaking vote was added when the Common Council confirmed Barrett’s appointment of Amanda Avalos in January. But the commission has held off voting on a new chair until March at the earliest.
The commission could lose another member soon. Ann Wilson has served with an expired term since 2018, but Barrett moved for her reappointment in late 2020. A council committee, after multiple closed session meetings, is recommending she be rejected.
Wilson’s reappointment hearings triggered an Inspector General’s report to resolve conflicting accounts on if and when the City Attorney’s Office provided legal advice regarding the Morales situation. That report came out last week and said the City Attorney provided advice that the commissioners ignored.
Wilson’s rejection wouldn’t immediately remove her from the commission. She could serve until a replacement is confirmed or she resigns.
The part-time commissioners are paid $6,600 per year and serve five-year terms. DeVougas was first appointed to the commission in 2013 and his second term was scheduled to expire in 2023.
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