Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Did Crowley Fire Medical Examiner?

Former Medical Examiner Brian Peterson says he was forced out by the county executive.

By - Oct 28th, 2022 03:57 pm
Dr. Brian L. Peterson. Photo courtesy of the Medical Society of Milwaukee County.

Dr. Brian L. Peterson. Photo courtesy of the Medical Society of Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Brian L. Peterson abruptly retired in September after more than a decade in the role.

Now, the high-profile murder trial of former Milwaukee police officer Michael Mattioli in the killing of Joel Acevedo has been delayed by six months because the state has been unable to get Peterson to testify in court.

At a hearing Friday, Judge David L. Borowski said “So now, apparently, Dr. Peterson was terminated by the county executive? Would have been nice for the county executive to come clean on this earlier since this has gone on for a month and a half now. It’s disrupting the judicial process in Milwaukee.”

Reached by text message, Peterson told Urban Milwaukee: “I stand by what the judge said.”

Asked to clarify, Peterson added, “I was asked to leave and given the option to retire. So, I choose to retire. I did not initiate the chain of events.” He said Crowley’s Chief of Staff Mary Jo Meyers delivered the message and that he was “offered no explanation” for his dismissal.

“As for the case, that is up to those at the Medical Examiner’s office; they are currently employed and I am retired. This situation is not novel in my field,” said Peterson of the Mattioli case.

Before Peterson could be reached for comment by Urban Milwaukee, a spokesperson for Crowley told Urban Milwaukee that Peterson went through the formal process for “emergency retirement” that is allowed by county ordinance, stating, “Essentially, the ordinance allows for those eligible, who hadn’t started the formal retirement process, to retire on or the day prior to their last day of work.”

Peterson signed his emergency retirement papers on Sept. 19. They were notarized in Waukesha County the same day.

Asked to respond to Peterson’s comments, a spokesperson said, “Dr. Peterson had a discussion about his retirement with HR and after the discussion he chose to retire.”

The spokesperson said the county executive would not comment beyond the original statement released in September. At the time, Crowley said, “Today, Brian Peterson shared his intention to retire from his role as Milwaukee County Examiner. His retirement is effective immediately. On behalf of Milwaukee County, I offer my deepest gratitude to Dr. Peterson for his many years of work and service. I wish him and his family a healthy and fulfilling retirement.”

Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Wieslawa Tlomak is currently serving as chief medical examiner.

Had Crowley explicitly fired Peterson, Wisconsin State Statute 59.38 requires the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to vote on the dismissal. Similarly, appointing a permanent replacement will require a vote of the board.

As medical examiner, Peterson was among the highest-paid county employees. He was appointed medical examiner in 2010 by then county executive Scott Walker.

Shortly before retiring, Peterson worked successfully to secure a new building for the medical examiner’s office. He went before a county task force in September seeking $20 million in support for a new forensic science center and was frank about the current facility’s problems. “People just don’t appreciate the cockroaches and the limited space and the crumbling infrastructure and all that,” he said. “It’s frankly unpleasant. When you can walk into our front lobby and smell decomposed bodies on a lot of days, that’s just not good.”

Peterson also drew headlines in 2021 when he was retained as an expert witness for the defense of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the trial over Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd.

Categories: MKE County, Politics, Weekly

One thought on “MKE County: Did Crowley Fire Medical Examiner?”

  1. gerrybroderick says:

    This sounds a lot like Abele’s treatment of Sue Black and makes me wonder who’s calling the shots in this matter.

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