Abele Exceeds His Authority
Outside Lawyers Seek to Clarify Limits of His Power
The Milwaukee County Board hired outside counsel for advice and possible litigation on the separation of powers between the Board and County Executive Chris Abele.
“County Executive Chris Abele’s administration believes it is above the law and continues to reject commonly accepted checks and balances and statutory limitations to his authority in favor of unilateral actions and private deals,” said Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr.
Lipscomb said that the County Executive has ignored adopted budget policy on issues such as increased pay for his political appointees. He added that the County Executive goes to the Legislature to “add to his powers by denying the people the right to speak on issues such as the $1 sale of the Park East to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“The County Executive did not hold a public hearing on the sale of the Park East.” Lipscomb said, “The County Executive has shut the public out of County government. He has created a cloak of secrecy around his actions that are carried out with few details and without public hearings. The general public should not have to pay to hear their County Executive speak.”
Lipscomb said Corporation Counsel identified a conflict of interest because he represents both the Board and the County Executive. He added: “The County Executive creates a conflict every time he goes to Madison to amass more political power for himself. Corporation Counsel has indicated there is a conflict, and as we move forward we expect the County Executive will again obtain outside counsel.”
Lipscomb said he was especially troubled by the pay raises given to political appointees without Board approval.
“The County Executive has created a ‘shadow’ pay scale for his political appointees,” he said. “Under this ‘shadow’ pay scale, there’s nothing to stop him from authorizing a pay range with a maximum salary of $1 million.
Outside counsel will not challenge the results of last year’s referendum, Lipscomb said.
“We will only pursue litigation if advised by counsel, but we question the County Executive’s claims of authority to spend taxpayer funds unilaterally by raising a political appointee’s salary nearly $50,000,” he said.