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Chair of Fire & Police Commission scrutinized for possible ethical violation

Posted at 7:48 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 20:59:29-05

MILWAUKEE — The Chair for Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is being accused of an ethical violation after a possible conflict of interest with a business partner.

Steven DeVougas serves as a chair for the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission but is also an attorney. One of his business clients is Kalan Haywood Sr. who is the owner of Haywood Group.

In August, Haywood Sr. was questioned by police in relation to a sexual assault. No charges were ever filed but during questioning, DeVougas accompanied Haywood Sr.

"Mr. DeVougas went with that person because he knew his position as chairman of the commission would influence that detective and intimidate this police department to try and make this go away," Shawn C. Lauda, President of the Milwaukee Police Association said. "There is no other answer in my opinion and that's improper."

However, DeVougas says he was there as a representative for the Haywood Group and not as counsel for Haywood personally.

"If my presence is there, [the investigators] should have the same issue as if a lieutenant or captain that can directly discipline him was in the room," DeVougas said.

DeVougas believes his view on appointing the next police chief is why the police union is bringing this up now. He has slowed the process because he wants to have the community be more involved.

However, according the the State Bar of Wisconsin's rules of professional conduct for attorneys, "A lawyer who is a public officer, whether full or part-time, should not engage in activities in which his personal or professional interests are, or foreseeably may be, in conflict with his official duties."

But DeVougas says he's in compliance with the rules.

"I did nothing unethical," DeVougas said. "I consulted with the Wisconsin State Bar ethics and they assure me, or tell me there was no rule that was violated. So really, what we have, is non-lawyers trying to give opinions on legal matters."

Lauda says DeVougas' view on appointing the next chief had nothing to do with their statements on his conduct.

"Every commissioner has their opinion on who they want as the next chief," Lauda said. "That's their job. The fact he has an opinion on who should be the next chief, there is nothing wrong with that. He's entitled to his opinion and he's entitled to his vote. The issues we're talking about with DeVougas are violations. This man needs to step down. He's lost his integrity. He's digging himself a hole every time he speaks. I'm calling on the District Attorney or the Attorney General's Office to investigate him and his violations. He needs to step down or be removed."

Around 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, nine members of the Milwaukee Common Council sent a message to the Fire and Police Commission, urging them to postpone tonight's special meeting on re-appointing Chief Alfonso Morales.