Clarke, Abele at odds over sheriff's budget lawsuit

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke filed a lawsuit against Milwaukee County Monday, just three days after he was sworn in for another four-year term.

\"I will continue to fight, yes fight, for more resources,\" Clarke said at a ceremony held in the county War Memorial building Friday.

The lawsuit claims the 2015 Milwaukee County budget doesn't give him the financial resources to maintain his apparently overworked and understaffed deputies.

\"They can't get consistent days off and they have to work double shifts,\" Clarke said.  \"All of which adds to stress and physical exhaustion.\"

In court documents, Clarke asks for money to hire 75 deputies, 43 House of Corrections officers and 17 supervisors -- all at the cost of an additional $25 million.

\"It's not a question of what can be afforded, it's a question of what is required,\" Clarke's attorney Michael Whitcomb said Wednesday.

Whitcomb says the county board and executive shouldn't -- and can't -- decide how many deputies a sheriff needs.

\"It is no one's decision, other than the sheriff, as to what personnel is required for him to fulfill his responsibilities,\" Whitcomb said.

Clarke also claims he hasn't hired a deputy since 2002, a fact County Executive Chris Abele doesn't dispute.

\"Everybody in public office wishes we had more resources to work with, but we've gotta be responsible stewards of your dollars,\" Abele said.

The county executive says the sheriff's office already got the largest increase -- $7.9 million -- of any county department.  The budget calls for $70.7 million for the sheriff's office.  Abele says cutting redundancies in courthouse security could help Clarke balance the funding he gets.

\"He has a very heavy command staff,\" Abele said.  \"We have a lot of unnecessary overtime. When you've got deputies who are all on overtime sitting next to security guards that you're also paying for, you know, that's not the best use of their time, it's not the best use of your money.\"

Clarke's attorney says the sheriff has tried for years to work within his budget constraints, but has reached a breaking point.

\"That has been attempted over the last four our five years to no avail,\" Whitcomb said.  \"It is the last resort.\"

The next legal step will come after the county responds to the complaint, which it has 20 days from the filing date to do.

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