The former chairman of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission has resigned amid an ethics investigation.
Steven DeVougas submitted his resignation letter Monday. He had been on the civilian oversight commission since 2013 and served four terms as chair between 2015 and 2020. He was replaced as chairman last year.
DeVougas, an attorney, was the center of multiple controversies. He came under scrutiny after the commission voted to demote former Police Chief Alfonso Morales last summer. A judge has ruled that the demotion was improper.
Meanwhile, the city’s Ethics Board is looking into DeVougas’s relationship with a prominent real estate developer. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2019 that DeVougas accompanied the developer, his corporate client, to an August 2019 police interview after the developer was accused of sexual assault.
At the time, DeVougas chaired the commission, which has oversight over the Milwaukee Police Department. The developer has denied the allegation and not been arrested nor charged. DeVougas has denied wrongdoing.
In his resignation letter, DeVougas praised his fellow commissioners but said there is a concerted effort to undermine the commission's credibility and authority. He wrote: “The ‘powers that be’ benefit from weakening the Commission. They do not want us to push for change and to hold people accountable."
He also wrote: “There are many individuals and entities that benefit from the system operating unchecked. I have watched this system try to keep people of color ‘in their place’ as long as I have lived here — through public lynchings and sensationalism."
Mayor Tom Barrett said DeVougas’ resignation was appropriate.
“I’m pleased that we’ll have an opportunity to turn the page, and I thank him for his service,” Barrett said. “In terms of the comments in the letter, he obviously has some strong feelings, some of which are legitimate, some of which are not. And there’s no reason to go into that.”