Milwaukee DA: No charges in Health Department lead program investigation

Milwaukee DA: No charges in Health Department lead program investigation

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Following a years-long investigation, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday, March 24 no criminal charges will be filed in the probe of the city's health department lead poisoning prevention program.

The department's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program faced years of scrutiny. In 2018, it was revealed that officials failed to provide services to families with lead poisoned kids, sparking the criminal investigation.

The issue led to the resignation of Bevan Baker, the department's commissioner at the time.

"Based upon that review, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office has determined there is insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed," the release Thursday said.

In July 2021, another issue came to light after the department revealed a mismanaged case of lead poisoning earlier in the year.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice also released documents related to the investigation on Thursday.

The Milwaukee Health Department released the following statement:

"The Milwaukee Health Department is thankful to Attorney General Kaul, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office for their diligent investigation into our Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program. Childhood lead poisoning is a public health crisis in Milwaukee, and eradicating it from our community is a top priority. Any level of lead poisoning is devastating and unacceptable. We are grateful to close this chapter of the Health Department’s history. With guidance from the Public Health Foundation and Wisconsin Department of Health Services and in collaboration with community organizations, we are dedicated to ensuring such oversights in the department never happen again."

Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson sent CBS 58 a statement saying, in part, "What occurred in the past – while not criminal – is extremely troubling. […] The Health Department has made substantial improvement in its work to address childhood lead poisoning. The Health Department knows I expect that improvement to continue."

A coalition community group called Get Out the Lead told CBS 58 in a phone interview it has serious concerns about the thoroughness of the DOJ investigation and will review the decision.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice also released documents related to the investigation on Thursday.

The Milwaukee Health Department released the following statement:

"The Milwaukee Health Department is thankful to Attorney General Kaul, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office for their diligent investigation into our Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program. Childhood lead poisoning is a public health crisis in Milwaukee, and eradicating it from our community is a top priority. Any level of lead poisoning is devastating and unacceptable. We are grateful to close this chapter of the Health Department’s history. With guidance from the Public Health Foundation and Wisconsin Department of Health Services and in collaboration with community organizations, we are dedicated to ensuring such oversights in the department never happen again."


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