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Milwaukee Council Approves Settlement With Ousted Chief

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Maayan Silver
/
WUWM
The Milwaukee Common Council voted Tuesday to approve a $627,000 settlement with former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales over his demotion last year.

Updated Wednesday at 8:49 a.m. CDT

Milwaukee and its former police chief could finally part ways after a lengthy legal battle.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted Tuesday to approve a $627,000 settlement with Alfonso Morales over his demotion last year. A federal lawsuit by the former chief over his ouster would be dropped as part of the agreement. Morales has 21 days to sign off on the negotiated deal.

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, a citizen panel, unanimously voted to remove Morales as chief last August, claiming he failed to fulfill a list of directives.

But Milwaukee County Judge Christopher Foley in December reversed the civilian commission’s decision to demote Morales to captain, which had prompted Morales to retire and sue. Foley at the time called the commission’s process “fundamentally flawed.”

Under the agreement, the city and commission would not admit to any negligence or to having violated any contract or federal, state and local laws.

The commission's vote came days before an Aug. 1 deadline agreed to by both sides to resolve the matter.

During the Milwaukee Common Council meeting Tuesday, Alderman Michael Murphy said the commission should
have provided Morales due process.

"The Fire and Police Commission had two attorneys serving on that commission who should, at a bare minimum, should have been aware of due process rights," he said. "But quite honestly all the commissioners who had voted on personnel
matters involving police officers and firefighters for years before, fully knew and were aware that they have to provide due process rights for the average officer on the street. Why they felt that they didn't need to provide it for the chief, I’m still
flabbergasted."

Murphy compared the amount of money the city is preparing to pay out to two years’ worth of park maintenance in the city.

He said this was “totally an avoidable situation if there was good management practices in place.”

Murphy claimed Mayor Tom Barrett could have simply vetoed the directives issued by the commission.

When settlement talks broke down in recent weeks, Judge Foley ordered that Morales be reinstated as chief, calling the conduct of the city and commission “disgraceful.”

“I’m forcing the city to either obey the law or buy their way out of this because of what they did,” Foley said. “Do I want to be in this position? Hell no. But I am in this position and they disregarded the law and the law affords him this remedy and if they don’t want to afford him this remedy, then find a solution short of that.”

Morales, a Milwaukee native, joined the department in 1993 and became a district captain before the commission selected him as chief in 2018.

The resolution now heads to the desk of Mayor Barrett