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Attorney resigns Milwaukee City Attorney's Office alleging he was asked to write vengeful memo

Tearman Spencer
Posted at 4:26 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 19:23:25-04

MILWAUKEE — An attorney recently hired by the Milwaukee City Attorney's Office has resigned after City Attorney Tearman Spencer allegedly asked him to write a memo documenting the failings of a former employee who accused Spencer of sexual harassment.

Spencer faces sexual harassment allegations and has seen 22 employees leave the City Attorney's Office since he took over less than 18 months ago.

Attorney Christian Thomas outlined the allegations in his resignation letter, which quickly circulated among Milwaukee city leaders and workers on Friday. He's the latest person to resign from the City Attorney's Office. Thomas, who joined the office a few months ago, says what Spencer asked him to do was "unacceptable."

In this letter, Thomas says he is leaving the City Attorney's Office because its leader, Tearman Spencer, asked him to write a memo documenting the failings of former Assistant Attorney Naomi Gehling, who is now the chief of staff in the city's Fire and Police Commission. When he refused, Thomas says he was reprimanded by Spencer.

Gehling claims Spencer inappropriately touched her leg and created a toxic and hostile work environment.

Thomas and Gehling are among nearly 25 staff members to leave the City Attorney's Office since Spencer took the helm in April of 2020 - leaving dozens of the city's legal cases they were in charge of, on hold.

TMJ4 News reached out to City Attorney Spencer's Office on Friday, but we have yet to receive comment.

The letter comes the same day Spencer addressed the Milwaukee Common Council's Finance and Personnel Committee for more money to hire new attorneys.

Spencer attended virtually, but didn't want to talk about the allegations from Thomas.

"I don't have a direct response until I have a chance to digest what's actually been said, but I think this matter should be taken up in a different form, in a different time," said Spencer.

Tearman Spencer
Tearman Spencer during the meeting.

But the committee didn't let up.

"The attorneys who are leaving have issues with your performance sir, so unless that is going to change, I don't see how this spiral does not keep going down and down and down. Everything we're seeing presents a narrative that is far different than what is presented to us," said Alderman Scott Spiker.

Spencer replied during the committee meeting, "I would say it would behoove us not to make personal allegations because that's not what we're here for today. We're here to talk a budget."

"I'm not here to question my performance by people leaving. They're leaving for whatever reason. They want to leave," said Spencer.

Alderman Scott Spike
Alderman Scott Spike during the meeting.

Alderman Spiker says it's not personal. Rather, the Finance Committee must decide whether or how to give money to an office that many claim is failing.

"It is directly pertinent to the dollars and cents decisions we're making today," said Spiker.

Alderman Mike Murphy asked for a full list detailing the legal cases that are now delayed in state and federal court due to the high turnover of attorneys in the City Attorney's Office. The office's chief of staff admitted there's been a strain on the office, but that they're working feverishly to make sure they have assistance to handle the cases.

Read Attorney Christian Thomas's resignation letter below:

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