$900,000 Settlement For Improper Firings By Chief Morales
Suit charges former police chief terminated seven Investigators without due process.
The Milwaukee Common Council approved another police settlement Tuesday, but it has nothing to do with officer misconduct.
It involves the 2019 actions of former chief Alfonso Morales and it will cost the city $900,000.
A Fire & Police Commission (FPC) report previously determined that Morales and former assistant chief Ray Banks were responsible. Morales previously said he acted on oral advice from Banks, though written performance reports approve of the investigators’ work. Banks, during the FPC investigation, said it was Morales’ idea to fire the individuals.
The lead background investigator, Malcolm Blakely, said he believed the terminations were personal.
The investigators performed background checks on applications. They were given a choice in February 2019 to either immediately resign or be fired after being told the Milwaukee Police Department was “going in a different direction.” Two of the seven chose to resign rather than be fired according to the FPC report.
The City Attorney’s Office has defended Morales’ actions as a bureaucratic misstep. Department policy is to give civilian employees notice and an opportunity to respond in writing to the chief.
He said the City Attorney’s Office expected to lose the case in court.
“We do believe this represents a savings to the city,” said Pederson. He said losing at trial and paying attorneys fees would cost more than $1 million.
Plaintiffs Jeffery Hadrian, Thomas Flock, Efrain Herrera, Richard Lesniewski, Hattie Nichols, Sandra Poniewaz and Jeffrey Watts will split $540,000. The law firm representing them, Hansen Reynolds, will receive $360,000.
Judiciary Committee Chair, Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, disclosed that the matter had been previously discussed in closed session. “I know it wasn’t an easy one to navigate,” said Hamilton. “To end up here I think we are within the space that many of us were comfortable with.”
Without discussion, the council unanimously approved the settlement Tuesday.
Morales himself won a settlement with the city in 2021 for due process issues in his termination. He was paid approximately $500,000 and now serves as the chief of police in Fitchburg, WI.
Banks, who previously retired, applied to replace Morales, but was not one of the seven finalists.