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.
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