MILWAUKEE — City of Milwaukee attorneys have concluded that former police chief Alfonso Morales did not receive due process in his demotion last summer, and further urged the Milwaukee County Court hearing Morales' petition to send the case back to the Fire and Police Commission for a full hearing.
The commission unanimously voted to demote Morales to captain in August, amid ongoing tensions between the regulatory body and the police chief and allegations from some of the FPC's members that Morales lied to them.
Morales' lawyers since filed a legal brief asking for Morales to be reinstated to his position of chief, arguing the chief was not given due process. Morales' attorneys continued that that the FPC had the right to issue directives under the law, but not the right to impose discipline, such as demoting the chief.
On Monday, Assistant City Attorney William G. Davidson announced he agrees that Morales deserves a fair hearing in front of the FPC, citing Wisconsin law that states any police officer who has been disciplined has the right to seek review of administrative decisions.
While Davidson says Morales relies on "extraneous evidence" in arguing for a review, Davidson acknowledges that "one of his arguments overwhelms the others."
"Chiefly, Morales complains that he was denied his right to due process... The City agrees that Morales, like any disciplined officer or member of the Police Department, is entitled to a trial," the Assistant City Attorney writes.
Davidson argues that because it appears Morales was denied his due process, it is necessary to remand his demotion to the FPC for a full hearing.
"In conducting a common law certiorari review here, the Court, upon finding that Morales was denied his due process—a fact the parties do not dispute—it becomes necessary to remand this matter to the Board to ensure Morales receives a full hearing," according to Davidson.
However, regarding "extraneous evidence," Davidson notes that Morales urged the Milwaukee County Court to take judicial notice of one of three extraneous exhibits he submitted in support of his petition. That evidence was not included in the official record of evidence regarding Morales submitted by the FPC to the Milwaukee County Court. Davidson cites Wisconsin law that requires the commission “certify to the clerk of the circuit court . . . all charges, testimony, and everything relative to the trial and discharge, suspension or reduction in rank of the member.”
"Morales’s attempt to supplement the record before this Court is improper and must be rejected. Not only does his effort run afoul of the statute’s plain language and at least one well-recognized rule of statutory construction, it also undermines the very purpose of a review," Davidson writes.
Morales also seeks $625,000 in damages.
Morales was appointed police chief in 2019 and served in that role until Aug. 6, 2020. He was originally slated to serve a four-year term as police chief.