Milwaukee council members hit release of video related to ongoing sex assault investigation
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:
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