By Gretchen Schuldt
Fire and Police Commission Executive Director Griselda Aldrete on Tuesday accused aldermen of "outright grotesque and misogynistic" behavior at last week's meeting of the Common Council's Steering and Rules Committee.
"I always welcome open dialogue to discuss or debate policy issues with those who may not always agree, but what happened during that committee was classic blame-shifting and name-calling with veiled threats from elected officials," she wrote in an open letter to Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton. The letter was released publicly via the city's e-notify email system about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"Rather than rationally asking questions and even the right to question the answers given, two women who lead key departments for the City were accosted," Aldrete wrote. "This seems to be the nature as of late for the Steering and Rules Committee - mainly by select alders. This ends now." (Video of the committee's discussion about the commission is here.)
Aldrete apparently was referring to herself and Director of Employee Relations Maria Monteagudo when referring to "two women who lead key departments." Monteagudo grew visibly angry during the meeting and said Ald. Robert Bauman was insulting her and was being disrespectful.
Bauman said he did not trust an assessment Monteagudo proposed to help determine what the commission needs to move forward. The office has been hit with high turnover and some staff have complained about Aldrete.
The proposed assessment would be done by a consultant the city has used before and would be hired without competitive bids. Monteagudo said that would allow the work to be done quickly.
Aldrete wrote, "As civil servants, we all work hard to gain and regain public trust while executing our daily mandates. How can we work in good faith with one another if the only words spoken are attacks?"
"I call upon you and leaders of this body to hold each other accountable and censure when necessary," she said.
She also said she thought fire and police commissioners should have city email addresses and cell phones or secure voicemail so members of the public could contact them directly. Communications from the public now are funneled through the commission staff.
Aldrete wrote that her office will launch a transparency campaign to increase communication with residents and "highlight progress and significant positive outcomes to the Council and media."
She also said that, due to time and staffing constraints, she may start sending a designee to update council members on commission activities.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Ald. Milele Coggs on Thursday criticized Mayor Tom Barrett, Police Chief Alfonso Morales, and members of the Fire and Police Commission for their silence on the release, for apparently political purposes, of a video related to an ongoing investigation into an alleged sexual assault.
Ald. Nik Kovac, meanwhile, said he hoped the release would be investigated and said the Police Department should not be the agency to conduct any probe since everyone there reports to Morales, the apparent intended beneficiary of the incident.
The "deafening silence about the wrongfulness of the public disclosure, potentially and possibly by an employee or a member of the Police Department, of a sexual assault accuser is disturbing to me," Coggs said. "All other mess aside – commissioners, chief, everything else – for a department that is supposed to uphold the law to be the very one that, it appears, leaks information about the potential, possible sexual assault victim to the media, to the public, is alarming."
She continued: "And the fact that commission members, the mayor – who also was questioned about it – the chief, have not - have been silent - in outrage over that and finding out how that was allowed to happen is utterly disturbing to me."
The video showed questioning by police of Kalan Haywood Sr. Haywood was accompanied by Steven DeVougas, a lawyer and chairman of the Fire and Police Commission. The video was released as DeVougas was trying to delay the appointment of Morales to a four-year term as chief. Haywood has not been charged in connection with the alleged assault.
The police union said DeVougas violated ethics guidelines by accompanying Haywood during the police interview.
The release of the video and the police union's accusations came as DeVougas tried unsuccessfully to delay the vote on Morales' appointment until he could get more information.
"It would appear that whoever released that information was hoping to discredit the integrity and the authority of one of your colleagues," Kovac told Commissioner Nelson Soler during a meeting of the Common Council's Steering and Rules Committee. "That came from within the department. The department did not disavow it."
Morales' only comment on the matter, at least to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was " 'Oh, that's really interesting,' " Kovac said. Morales "suggested essentially (that) – your colleague, the chair – that there might be something inappropriate there."
Kovac said he believed the release affected the commission as it weighed whether to appoint Morales to a new term.
"I would assume all of the commissioners were very much aware that was going on," he said.
The video release was inappropriate and the motivation for it was "highly suspect and related directly to the deliberation the commission had going on," Kovac said.
The Journal Sentinel story "was full of information that should not have been public," Kovac said. "It happened on the chief's watch. It may have directly benefited the chief's career. Should there be an investigation into that?"
Soler declined to respond directly.
"I think any behavior of that nature, as you described, should be investigated," he said.
DeVougas, who joined the meeting late into the discussion, said he thought the District Attorney's office and Fire and Police Commission could handle aspects of the investigation, and that he would recuse himself from involvement.
"I would even go so far to say an independent third party to have the investigation performed," he said.
WJI earlier this week wrote to the commission to inquire about the status of any investigation and to urge that an independent, third-party probe be conducted. From the correspondence:
Updated Dec. 14, 2019 with Griselda Aldrete's response
By Gretchen Schuldt
Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Executive Director Griselda Aldrete on two separate documents falsely stated what and when she taught at the Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Aldrete said on a full resume and a separate teaching resume that she taught criminal justice at the school, which she did not. She also said she taught there more recently than she actually did.
Employee Relations Director Maria Monteagudo acknowledged a "discrepancy" in Aldrete's resume, adding "A correction to her resume will be made by Ms. Aldrete for the record."
"This information does not change Ms Aldrete's qualifications for the Executive Director position," Monteagudo wrote in an email.
Aldrete's short tenure already has been controversial – she was confirmed in her job in July – marked by staff turnover that some see as necessary and others see and deeper management problems.
"I try to live life by the simple credo: “trust, truth and transparency,” Aldrete said during her confirmation hearing, according to written testimony.
Asked why gave incorrect information to the city, Adrete said, "From your line of questioning, you’re implying that this was done purposely on my resume. With all due respect, this is my resume and I know it well. As any professional in the workforce knows, when regularly adding new experience and jobs you must also update dates and times. There was nothing done here intentionally or to 'trick' anyone."
"What's important is: Did I work there? Yes. Did I teach? Yes? " she wrote in an email.
She said she had a master's degree and is an attorney.
"I’ve dedicated my career to helping people and strengthening communities in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin," she wrote.
Aldrete stated on the main resume she submitted to the city that she taught "Introduction of Criminal Justice" at MATC from 2009 to 2012.
She actually taught at the school part-time from November 2004 to December 2005 and never taught a course there related at all to criminal justice.
Rather, she taught mostly short basic education courses – basic communications, career exploration, and computer basics. Her class schedule is here.
The "teaching resume" also includes criminal-justice related teaching at MATC. The teaching resume does not contain specific dates, but lists a variety of courses Aldrete says she taught at Bryant & Stratton, Concordia College (now Concordia University), MATC, and Marquette University from 2008 to the time the resume was submitted. The teaching resume does not specify when or where she taught the individual classes.
Monteagudo did not respond to follow-up questions by late Friday afternoon concerning why why the city did not discover the incorrect information before WJI asked about it.
Aldrete said she did not think the issue would hurt her credibility.
"Absolutely not," she wrote. "What is hurting this Commission and the credibility of this office, and the many dedicated civil servants working here day-in and day-out, is the many attempts to unnecessarily discredit me, the FPC, or our employees. I have committed my professional life to helping the people of Milwaukee be successful and get help whenever needed. As mentioned above."
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