Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Morales Demotion Debacle Will Cost City Additional $19,000

City's outside counsel exceeded its budget.

By - Nov 12th, 2021 12:13 pm
American Cash by Psychonaught. Photo of money

American Cash by Psychonaught. Photo of money

The City of Milwaukee has another bill to pay for the Fire & Police Commission’s botched demotion of Police Chief Alfonso Morales. Its outside counsel exceeded its authorized budget by nearly 50%.

Morales, now chief of police in Fitchburg, received a $627,000 check from the city earlier this year. That money also covered the legal fees associated with his legal team at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown. That was paid with contingent borrowing, meaning the final cost to the city will grow with interest.

As part of the settlement, the city also had to pay $1,575 to Resolute Systems to cover Morales’ share of the failed mediation process managed by retired judge David E. Jones, as well as its own costs.

Now it has to pay its own legal team.

City Attorney Tearman Spencer secured council approval in April to hire Cade Law Group and Nathanial Cade to work as outside counsel on the lawsuit with an authorized maximum of $40,000. Cade himself was to be paid $350 per hour in six-minute increments and another firm attorney, Carlos Pastrana, $250 per hour.

A file pending before the Common Council would grant Cade an additional $18,726.63 payment for a total of $58,726.63. The original $40,000 was to be paid from a budgeted outside counsel fund in the City Attorney’s budget, but the new resolution doesn’t say where the additional funding would come from.

The Judiciary & Legislation Committee is expected to review the file next week. Committee chair Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, when the settlement was reached in July, said he was happy with Cade’s performance. “I think we got our money’s worth,” he said at the time. But a number of council members expressed frustration at what they said was an entirely avoidable lawsuit.

Largely as a result of the botched demotion, four of the seven members on the Fire & Police Commission and the executive director have been replaced. A nomination is pending to replace a fifth member.

Morales’ case received help multiple times throughout the process. 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, Foley set a 45-day timeline for that to happen, which, with a handful of short extensions, ultimately yielded the settlement.

The turmoil and turnover at Spencer’s office also contributed to issues with the case.

Assistant City Attorney William G. Davidson was originally assigned to the case, but resigned from his position in May. According to his resignation form he took a new job that offered a better salary and better work-life balance. He also left because of the “current atmosphere within the City Attorney’s office, examples of which have been reported frequently by local media.” He is now an assistant corporation counsel for Milwaukee County.

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Related Legislation: File 211122

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