Sunday, November 18, 2012

Did Abele Withhold News To Influence County Board Budgetary Actions?

During the recent budget battle between Chris Abele and the County Board, one of the most contentious issues was whether to abdicate the county's duties regarding patrolling the parks within the City of Milwaukee.  Abele wanted to foist this responsibility onto the Milwaukee Police Department and the cost onto the taxpayers of the city, even though residents from throughout the county enjoy the parks.  The Board felt that this was the wrong way to go and amended this part of Abele's budget.

Histrionic about the move, Abele vetoed it and fought for support of it, even though most citizens were against it.

The Board listened to the people and overrode Abele's veto.

Now that the budget process is over for another year, Abele released the news that the Assistant Medical Examiner who originally incorrectly ruled that Derek Williams' death was due to natural causes had resigned.  It was only a year later, when the case was reviewed, that the cause of death was corrected to homicide.

However, as Supervisor David Bowen points out in a press release, Abele had withheld that information for two weeks:
"The delay in making public the resignation two weeks ago of the Assistant Medical Examiner shows no respect to this community, which continues to be concerned about the death of Derek Williams in City of Milwaukee Police custody!"

“When the County Executive fires well-respected public servants like Sue Black and Frank Busalacchi, who he had appointed, he makes it a priority to inform the public the same day. But when a community is frustrated by the lack of humanity of officers who refuse to call for medical attention as a resident dies in the back of a police car, the Executive is silent, misleading the public into thinking nothing has happened.

“The resignation of the Assistant Medical Examiner strongly suggests that there has been wrongdoing in this situation, to the degree that he could not continue in his job in good conscience.

“Residents of Milwaukee County should question the Executive’s priorities: Is he more interested in protecting the interests of the residents he represents, or of leaders who protect the status quo of wrongdoing, while relations between the Milwaukee Police Department and community residents deteriorate.

“I call for the County Executive not to succumb to the same old politics that have gotten us into this mess but to enforce accountability and be the honest leader we need him to be."
Given that Abele was so desperate to push through the spinning off of county duties to the city, it seems likely that he might have withheld this information in order not to stir up the strong feelings regarding the mistakes made in that case and the fact that it was the Milwaukee Police Department who neglected to get medical attention for Williams as he was dying in the back of a squad.

Not only is it a horrible politicization of a young man's death, but it serves as a glaring reminder of the utter lack of transparency that has become a trademark for Abele's administration.  Abele still needs to explain the sudden and unexpected firings of former Parks Director Sue Black and former DPW and Transit Director Frank Busalacchi.

Cross posted at Milwaukee County First.

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