Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Approves Morales Settlement

Former chief will get $500,000 and now a finalist for job in Dane County suburb.

By - Jul 27th, 2021 12:34 pm
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales. Photo from the Milwaukee Police Department.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales. File photo from the Milwaukee Police Department.

Former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales is set to be paid approximately $500,000 for a job he won’t have to work, receive a monthly pension in excess of $8,500 and possibly earn a third paycheck as police chief of a Madison suburb.

It’s quite the reversal of fortune from August 2020 when the Fire & Police Commission (FPC) unanimously voted to demote the chief. More than half of the commission’s seven members have since been replaced.

Morales, who became the chief in 2018, retired after he was demoted and filed a lawsuit challenging the action. Through attorney Frank Gimbel, Morales argued his due process rights were denied because the commission demoted him before a timeline to respond to 11 directives expired. Morales had a four-year contract to serve as chief through 2022.

“This was a totally avoidable problem,” said Alderman Michael Murphy on Tuesday as the Common Council considered a settlement agreement. He blamed the mayor-appointed commissioners and Mayor Tom Barrett, who could have vetoed the directives. “It is not fair to taxpayers to shell out this kind of money.”

But Murphy said he was supporting the proposed settlement agreement out of the fear of an even larger cost should Morales prevail in a pending federal lawsuit.

Ald. Scott Spiker was the only other council member to speak on the issue. He too placed the blame on the commission.

The council unanimously approved a $627,000 settlement agreement with Morales. The settlement includes legal fees for Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown.

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 DecemberMilwaukee 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 jointly delayed twice to allow settlement negotiations to continue.

The City of Milwaukee was represented by outside counsel on the Morales case, Nathaniel Cade of Cade Law Group. Settlement discussions also included Ald. Ashanti Hamilton and Mayor Barrett. Hamilton and Barrett announced the tentative settlement on July 13th.

Barrett has until August 1st to sign the agreement or the city would default on the deal.

The city will pay for the settlement out of contingent borrowing.

But there are other costs related to the settlement beyond the lump-sum payment. The city is using a fund set aside for outside legal representation to pay Cade up to $40,000. Per the settlement agreement, the city will need to pay $1,575 to Resolute Systems to cover Morales’ share of a failed mediation process before retired judge David E. Jones. It will also need to cover its own costs for the failed mediation effort.

Morales, on Monday, was announced as one of four finalists for the police chief job in Fitchburg, a suburb of Madison. A public reception for residents to meet the finalists is planned for August 3.

Acting chief Jeffrey Norman continues to lead the Milwaukee Police Department. Multiple council members have called for the commission to give Norman a full, four-year term.

Since the FPC demoted Morales, commissioners Nelson SolerRaymond Robakowski, Steven M. DeVougas and Angela McKenzie have either resigned or been replaced as their terms expired. Ann WilsonEverett Cocroft and Fred Crouther remain on the commission. The council already rejected Barrett’s reappointment of Wilson, but she remains on the commission until a replacement is named.

Morales 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 protests 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 when the directives were issued without public debate.

A full copy of the settlement is available on Urban Milwaukee.

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