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Former Milwaukee health commissioner wants his name cleared of lead removal missteps

Posted at 5:21 PM, Dec 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 18:23:54-05

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's former health commissioner is trying to clear his name two years after he resigned in disgrace.

Bevan Baker was ousted after investigations found the health department failed to tell thousands of families they tested positive for lead.

Baker said he wants the Common Council to publicly clear his name of any wrongdoing, but he refused to talk about the reason city leaders say he lost his job.

It's been nearly two years since Baker abruptly resigned from his post as Milwaukee's health commissioner. On Monday, he read a prepared statement claiming he was wrongly blamed.

"The public statements that have been made about me over the past two years are defamatory and false," Baker said.

In January of 2018, Mayor Tom Barrett said mismanagement in the health department left thousands of families in the dark after their children tested positive for lead. In an interview Monday, Baker would only talk about lead service lines. He said when those lines were removed in 2015, public works and the water department neglected to inform north-side families not to drink their tap water. Baker would not take questions, having his lawyer William Sulton respond.

"Mr. Baker informed the mayor that there would likely be spikes in lead levels in children, particularly given that public works and waterworks were not supplying clean water," Sulton said.

Mayor Barrett declined to comment about baker's new claims, but his office sent TODAY'S TMJ4 a statement that reads in part, "Since the Mayor first learned of the problems two years ago, the Health Department has made good progress on its lead efforts."

The day after Baker resigned in January of 2018, Barrett was furious.

"I am angry, disappointed and I am actively working with department staff to fix it right now," he said.

Barrett claims the former health commissioner tried to cover up his failure to notify hundreds of families whose children tested positive for elevated levels of lead.

Baker said the stain on his professional record has made it impossible to land a job with similar pay. He hopes speaking out will change that.