Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

City Will Pay $237,480 For New Settlements, Lawsuits

One payout just the tip of the iceberg for incident that's cost taxpayers $518,000.

By - Nov 23rd, 2022 01:48 pm
Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Break out the checkbook.

On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Common Council unanimously authorized spending $155,000 on three legal settlements and $82,480 on outside attorneys for three other cases. One of the outside attorney payments closes the door on a 2013 incident where a police officer beat a murder suspect and ended up the one being paid the most.

The highest profile payments are $40,000 to MWH Law Group to defend the city on two different discrimination claims filed by former assistant city attorneys against City Attorney Tearman Spencer and his management team and $50,000 for a child that was left in the back of a towed vehicle.

The city will also pay $55,000 to Rebecca Basten, her insurance provider and legal representative to settle a lawsuit stemming from Basten’s February 2019 collision with a Department of Public Works snowplow in Bay View. “Ms. Basten sustained personal injuries, wage loss and property damage as a result of this accident,” says the City Attorney’s letter recommending council approval.

Another DPW-related settlement has the city paying Bradley Seubert and his attorney $50,000 stemming from a July 2018 incident where Seubert fell off his bicycle while riding on the Hank Aaron State Trail after crossing a freshly-painted crosswalk. Seubert sued the city and two insurance providers following the incident, which resulted in injury and lost wages.

In both of the lawsuits, Jennifer DeMaster was listed as an attorney representing the city until her March 2022 termination. She’s now one of the former attorneys suing the city for discrimination.

Gomez Incident Costs More Than $500,000

The city will pay law firm von Briesen & Roper S.C. $42,480 to conclude a series of legal proceedings that repeatedly cost the city.

Milwaukee Police Department officer Rodolfo Gomez sued the city following what he alleged was an improper termination following his 2013 beating of an in-custody murder suspect.

The matter concludes with Gomez being paid a settlement in 2021 of $335,772.02, Deron Love, the man Gomez beat, being paid $100,000 in 2019 and von Briesen being paid $82,480. That’s a total bill of more than $518,000.

In August 2013, Gomez beat Love, a murder suspect, while he was handcuffed to a wall in an interrogation room. Then-Police Chief Edward A. Flynn fired Gomez in December 2013 for excessive use of force. Gomez appealed the decision to the Fire & Police Commission (FPC), and the board upheld Flynn’s decision in July 2015. But the timing of the commission’s decision left room for Gomez to sue in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. And the court sided with Gomez, ruling that the FPC failed to act within its statutory time limit. The city unsuccessfully appealed the matter twice.

While Gomez was fighting his termination, he faced criminal charges for his actions. In February 2015, a Milwaukee County jury found him not guilty on two charges of misconduct in office and abuse of residents of penal facilities. In 2016, he was indicted on federal charges of “willfully depriving an in-custody subject of his civil right not to be subjected to excessive force.”

A video of the interrogation shows Gomez repeatedly punching Love, who had one hand chained to the wall, in the face and kneeing him in the torso once. The physical assault stopped when another MPD member entered the room.

Gomez pled guilty to the federal charge in June 2016 and was sentenced to a year and one day in prison as part of the plea agreement. But as a result of the circuit court rulings, the City of Milwaukee had to pay Gomez his salary and benefits, plus interest, from the date of his termination through the date of his guilty plea.

The funds for the settlements and outside attorneys will come from the Common Council’s contingency fund. The council approved the payments Tuesday without debate, but previously discussed the matters in closed session and briefly at a meeting of the Judiciary & Legislation Committee.

Categories: City Hall, Weekly

One thought on “City Hall: City Will Pay $237,480 For New Settlements, Lawsuits”

  1. nickzales says:

    Does the City Attorney’s office take any cases to trial or does it just settle them? I would like to know how many civil cases were tried in 2022 by the City Attorney’s office, not the many outside attorneys the city has been required to hire, and the results. It looks like the taxpayers will be digging deep for a while.

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