More Turnover In City Attorney’s Office
6 attorneys recently resigned or were fired; 24 have left in less than two years. Non-attorneys also quitting.
Employees might need to wear name tags at the City Attorney’s Office, given the constant turnover.
Since City Attorney Tearman Spencer was elected in April 2020, his department has lost 24 attorneys, 60% of its authorized roster.
Spencer initially blamed the turnover issue on his replacing 36-year-incumbent Grant Langley. But employees hired by Spencer, including special deputy Kimberly Walker, have also departed. In October 2021 he added the media, Common Council and low pay as additional reasons people are leaving.
The departures are not slowing. Jeremy McKenzie, Heather Hough, Gregory Kruse and Jenny Yuan all submitted their resignations in the past month. Spencer also accelerated the turnover by firing Jennifer DeMaster and Nicholas Zales, two attorneys still working under probationary status.
A report from the Department of Employee Relations indicates that nine other employees have left the department, including an assistant, paralegal, business finance officer and personnel officer. According to the 2022 budget, the department has 24 non-attorney positions.
But others are more explicit. “Toxic office and leadership environment,” wrote Christian Thomas. He also wrote a letter that accused Spencer of making a politically-motivated, retaliatory request at an employee he replaced.
“Inexperienced upper management in regards to areas of law and representation of municipal clients; ethical violations by the City Attorney, especially when it comes to Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys,” wrote Sheila Thobani in her May resignation.
A number of employees that have left the department have landed other city jobs. Mary Schanning, a supporter of Langley, took a job with the Department of City Development early last year before later becoming general counsel at Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Naomi Gehling, who has been publicly critical of Spencer’s behavior, resigned to become chief of staff for the Fire & Police Commission. Nicole Larsen resigned for a job in Racine, but was recently appointed to serve as chief assessor by Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson.
The assistant city attorney position pays a minimum of $63,809.98 for new hires, but the office can increase that to as high as $136,395.22 based on the candidate and their experience. City residents are paid 3% more.
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More about the Turmoil at the City Attorney's Office
- City Hall: Another Former Assistant City Attorney Files Discrimination Claim - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 20th, 2023
- City Hall: Former City Attorneys File Discrimination Claims - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 14th, 2022
- City Hall: City Faces $9.5 Million In Legal Claims - Jeramey Jannene - May 4th, 2022
- City Hall: DNS Could Drop City Attorney, Hire Its Own - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 12th, 2022
- City Hall: City Attorney Halts Plan To Sue Reckless Drivers - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 22nd, 2022
- City Hall: Spencer Faces Sex Discrimination Claim - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 22nd, 2022
- City Hall: More Turnover In City Attorney’s Office - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 9th, 2022
- City Hall: Putin-Backing Assistant City Attorney Fired - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 28th, 2022
- City Hall: Council Could End Fight Over Couture Provision - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 22nd, 2022
- City Hall: Tearman Spencer Attacks Robert Bauman - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 21st, 2022
Read more about Turmoil at the City Attorney's Office here
Political Contributions Tracker
Displaying political contributions between people mentioned in this story. Learn more.
- January 6, 2020 - Grant Langley received $3,000 from Mary Schanning
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MPD Moving To Seize Vehicles Via Court SystemMar 10th, 2022 by Jeramey Jannene