Statement of Bevan K. Baker
Statement provided to media on December 23rd, 2019
My name is Bevan Baker. As you know, I served for 13 years as Health Commissioner for the City of Milwaukee. For 17 years I served Milwaukee with the highest level of integrity and fidelity to the health of all people. To date, it is the most important work of my professional life. In serving this great City, it was my honor to walk in almost every neighborhood. From Bronzville to Bay View, Wilson Park to Sherman and Granville to Lake Park I embraced all of Milwaukee. Along the way, I met thousands of residents who believe in Milwaukee and have the same wish that I have for Milwaukee to become one the healthiest and safest places to live, work and play in the nation.
Additionally, I met with hundreds of faith leaders at Mosques, Synagogues, Parishes and Churches who shared with me their desire for healing Milwaukee and a hope of better future for all. I met and engaged community leaders on every issue impacting health in the City. I partnered with business leaders in nearly every sector to move the City’s health forward.
Approximately 670 days ago, I issued a statement regarding an internal investigation of Milwaukee’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. I noted that my chief concern was the health and safety of all children in the City. This is still true today.
I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin while faithfully caring out the duties of the Commissioner’s office. I fully honored that oath and continue to do so today.
As a chief executive with knowledge of the internal workings of the Mayor’s office, I say with confidence that the Departments of Public Works and Water Works were responsible for mismanaging the lead program. Since the investigations to date have failed to publicly state all of the facts, I am now compelled to say that the Mayor’s office was wrong.
It is important to mention now that in January 2016, the Mayor convened a meeting with the Commissioner of Public Works and the Superintendent of Water Works to present their findings regarding the impact of lead service line removal. As part of the Mayor’s cabinet, I attended the meeting to provide advice regarding public health concerns. Based on the results Public Works and Water Works presented to the Mayor, I advised the Mayor of the serious public health implications. That was also shared with state health officials and the media. Afterwards, I directed the Public Health Laboratory to apply to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to become certified in testing lead in water for Milwaukee residents. Next, I requested that the City Attorney issue an opinion on the Health Department’s ability to conduct lead in water testing without the consent of homeowners. Month after month my request went unanswered. Some eight months later the City Attorney finally answered my inquiry. His opinion was that we could not do the testing.
I had the honor of being invited and serving on an advisory board known as the Water Quality Task Force. The Task Force was chaired by former Ald. Jim Bohl who currently works for the Mayor’s office. Many of the Task Force’s recommendations have not been fully implemented. The Mayor’s office has done nothing to accelerate the removal and rehabilitation of lead service lines in Milwaukee, as urged by the Task Force.
I stand before you today to set the record straight on the roles and responsibilities of the those serving in the Mayor’s office. The public statements that have been made about me over the past two years are defamatory and false. Most notably, nearly two years after my departure there is a concerted effort to misrepresent my role as Health Commissioner to be only individual responsible for the lead service line removal and lead in water concerns. This is false. Public Works and Water Works are the main cabinet level agencies responsible for this issue. I call on the Common Council to fully and fairly investigate the serious problems that continue to exist due to mismanagement of this issue by the Mayor and others in his office. The City simply deserves better.
- Council effort to create lead-safe program moves forward - Ald. Khalif Rainey - Jul 7th, 2020
- City Hall: Milwaukee on 70-Year Pace To Replace Lead Laterals - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 13th, 2020
- City Hall: Audit Gives Water Works High Marks - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 12th, 2020
- League of Women Voters Presents Forum on Lead Poisoning March 6 - League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County - Mar 2nd, 2020
- AG Objects to Relaxed Lead Pipe Rules - Melanie Conklin - Feb 14th, 2020
- City Hall: Former Health Director Blames Barrett - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 24th, 2019
- Statement of Bevan K. Baker - Bevan K. Baker - Dec 23rd, 2019
- Mayor Barrett Proposes $2.2 Million in Block Grant Funds for Lead Abatement - Mayor Tom Barrett - Dec 4th, 2019
- City Hall: Health Department Probe a State Matter - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 14th, 2019
- City Hall: Proposal Uses Lead Abatement Funds for Marketing - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 7th, 2019
Read more about Lead Crisis here