Milwaukee inspector general faults Fire and Police Commission for demoting former chief Morales

NOW: Milwaukee inspector general faults Fire and Police Commission for demoting former chief Morales

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A new report issued by Milwaukee's inspector general finds the Fire and Police Commission did not follow its own rules or legal advice from the City Attorney's Office when it demoted former police chief Alfonso Morales.

"Anybody who has any kind of oversight about the way that Chief Morales was treated by the Fire and Police Commission seems to come to the same conclusion," said Morales' attorney, Frank Gimbel.

He said the conclusion is simple, the Fire and Police Commission screwed up big time.

"Dysfunctional and out of line and did not know what they're doing," said Gimbel.

The inspector general found the FPC had gotten numerous written legal opinions from the City Attorney's Office but did not follow them when it demoted Morales. She also wrote at least twice, the board made its decision based on a statement from City Attorney Tearman Spencer to "do what needs to be done," with the assurance his office would back it up.

CBS 58 called Spencer. He said he couldn't discuss the report and politely ended the call. 

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued a statement saying in part, "There's a lot of back and forth among the different individuals involved. I wasn't surprised by that, I was a little disappointed because you want to have it resolved."

Gimbel said he's sent a list of demands to settle the matter with the city but has not yet heard back.

"I don't accuse anybody of any intentional misbehavior, but certainly the cumulative effect of the way Chief Morales was treated is -- there are some responsibilities owed to the chief relative to his employment contract," said Gimbel.

The city hired an outside law firm to handle the Morales case. The inspector general's report will be discussed at a council committee next week.

In a statement, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said, "The inspector general’s report speaks for itself. It seems that for the most part, that the version of events offered by the city attorney’s office have been corroborated. The council looks forward to further discussion on this at the coming steering and rules committee meeting."

"There does seem to be some continuing ambiguity, what did the commissioners actually know? It’s clear that the city attorney was sending the information to the Fire and Police Commission. Did it stop at the executive director, was the information passed on?" said Alderman Robert Bauman. "But bottom line is this, Fire and Police Commission is the decision-makers. They’re ultimately responsible. They either knew or should have known that how they were proceeding was illegal, was improper and there has to be consequences, in my opinion."

In a footnote of the inspector general's report, it says, "I attempted to contact interviewees through email. I conducted an interview with two of the interviewees contacted and was unable to reach five individuals because they were not responsive. One individual reached out and indicated they would contact me with a date and send requested documentation, however, an interview did not occur, nor was documentation submitted and the individual became non-responsive to additional communications. Since I received ample information from the conducted interviews and documentation provided, I did not find it necessary to continue attempting to contact the remaining interviewees because I anticipated duplicative, general testimony."

The report does not state who did not participate in the interviews. 

"These are public servants in a job with very high public scrutiny, very high visibility, they’re In charge of the Milwaukee Police Department," said Bauman. "How much higher visibility can you get? How much more important public position can you have? And they can’t even return a phone call to the inspector general who's just doing her job, that’s pretty outrageous. I mean that’s a second reason they should all resign, or at least those that refused to respond and participate," said Bauman. 

On Thursday, Fire and Police Commissioner Chairman Nelson Soler said in an email:

"I am disappointed with the report as the primary individuals involved in the actions taken against Morales were not interviewed. This includes, but not limited to, the former executive director, the former FPC board chair and former commissioner Robakowski. An investigation cannot be concluded with only two interviews. In addition, the inspector general failed to take into account the full involvement of the City Attorney’s Office in the decisions made on this matter, including the decision to demote Morales. As the Common Council is interested in truly understanding the totality of the situation, this investigation shall remain open, and those parties subpoenaed."

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