Morales Reaches Tentative, $626,000 Settlement With City
Ousted chief won't return to Milwaukee Police Department.
Alfonso Morales will not return as police chief on Thursday. But he could soon receive $500,000.
Morales, who was demoted last year by the Fire & Police Commission, reached a tentative settlement agreement Tuesday with the City of Milwaukee. The agreement calls for Morales to be paid $500,000. His legal team would receive an additional $126,000 according to city officials.
“Obviously this has been a challenging matter for all involved and I am pleased we have reached the next step,” said Mayor Tom Barrett at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. He said the deal was fair for taxpayers given that Morales had a four-year contract that ran through 2023.
Morales was unanimously demoted last August before his deadline to respond to 11 directives issued by the commission expired, leading him to successfully sue for violation of his due process rights. The former chief, represented by attorney Frank Gimbel, delayed his court-ordered reinstatement multiple times to allow settlement discussions to continue.
“It’s never easy when the city is being sued and it’s even more complicated when the process was flawed,” said Alderman Ashanti Hamilton. The former council president has served as the council’s point person on the negotiations.
The chief became an increasingly controversial figure following an evidence leak in a sexual assault investigation involving an FPC commissioner just before the then-acting chief was given a four-year term in December 2019 and the department’s summer 2020 response, including a false claim of a Molotov cocktail thrown at officers, to the civil unrest that occurred following the killing of George Floyd. The issue came to a head at the six-month performance review for Morales in July 2020, but the commission demoted him before the timeline on its directives to the chief expired.
Morales’ case received help multiple times along the way. City Attorney Tearman Spencer, in a filing, agreed that Morales was denied his due process rights. Then in December, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Foley ruled in Morales’ favor and ordered him reinstated. In May, he set a 45-day timeline for that to happen. That timeline was to allow Morales to return as chief on Saturday, July 3rd before it was delayed until the 12th by the parties and then to the 15th.
“This disgraceful conduct by the commission has created complete uncertainty and total chaos in this community,” said Foley in June. “I’m forcing the city to obey the law or buy their way out of this because of what they did.”
The Common Council will need to have a special meeting to introduce the settlement agreement. It will then go before the Judiciary and Legislation Committee on July 19 and the full Common Council on July 27. If the full council does not approve the settlement, Morales is set to be reinstated on August 1.
Four of the seven commission members that voted to demote Morales have now either resigned or been replaced. The council rejected a new term for a fifth, Ann Wilson, after Barrett reappointed her. Griselda Aldrete, the former FPC executive director, a mayoral cabinet member who also reports to the board, resigned and was replaced by Leon W. Todd, III.
“We want to be able to turn the page on some of the issues we have had,” said Hamilton of the settlement and changes.
Barrett said the city was still working out where the funds would come from. The city has paid many of its lawsuit settlements with contingent borrowing.
The final, detailed terms of the settlement were not immediately available. Hamilton said the City Attorney’s office was literally typing up the agreement during the Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Morales retired following the demotion and receives his city pension of more than $8,500 per month. He initially joined the Milwaukee Police Department in 1993 and was paid approximately $150,000 per year as chief. After retiring, Morales bought a house in the Village of Pewaukee in Waukesha County. The settlement resolves all legal claims Morales had against the city, including a federal lawsuit.
Should the settlement be approved, the FPC could reopen its search for a new, permanent police chief. Acting chief Jeffrey Norman, who was one of six finalists in the previously suspended process, received an endorsement from Barrett for doing a “very, very good job” on Tuesday.
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