MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee County judge has ruled that ousted police chief Alfonso Morales must be reinstated to his former position unless a settlement is reached, court documents show.
The judge ruled Wednesday morning that Morales be reinstated, but also immediately stayed the ruling for a period of 45 days. That means Morales and the City of Milwaukee have 45 days to negotiate a settlement, or he will be returned to the position he was removed from last year.
"I don’t think he wants to come back. The city doesn’t want him to come back. From media accounts, it would be an extremely untenable situation, but he’s entitled to this relief. But, I think for sake of city everybody’s sake I think you’re going to resolve this case and it think you should resolve this," said Milwaukee County Judge Chris Foley. "If you can't get it settled in 45 days then my order goes into effect. Put him back in office make him the chief and away we go."
Last month, Morales and his lawyer asked the judge to have the city reinstate Morales to his old job, arguing the city has not made any effort to abide by a ruling last year that Morales' demotion was illegal.
"We agreed there was not due process. He's now said I'm done I don't want to serve as captain. I don't want to deal with the city of Milwaukee. You don't get to after the fact say I've changed my mind," Nathaniel Cade, the attorney representing the City of Milwaukee and the Fire and Police Commission, said during Wednesday's hearing.
Attorney Ray Dall'Osto, who represented Morales, said he is ready, willing and able to serve as chief of police.
"The original decision was wrong. Judge Foley found it was wrong and not found it on the lot in December and it's still wrong today, so we'll see if the city complies with his order," Dall'Osto said.
Dall'Osto did not elaborate on what kind of settlement would be reasonable, but noted that beyond Morales' contract that was supposed to last through January 2024 he has experienced others costs to his finances and reputation.
Morales' attorney, Franklyn M. Gimbel, sent an affidavit with the requests to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in April.
Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission demoted Morales to captain last August amid tensions between the chief and the oversight body. Morales then retired from the police department, and has since been fighting to get his old job as chief back.
April's affidavit argues the city has not upheld Milwaukee County Judge Christopher Foley's decision last December that the FPC illegally demoted Morales to captain. The ruling also called for the city to reinstate Morales to chief, though it did not include how Morales might be reinstated.
The City Attorney's Office and the FPC have since blamed each other for the alleged illegal demoting.
Gimbel argued in April that the city has not reached out to him regarding a date when Morales could return to work.
"The discord, distrust and uneasy stand-off that currently exists at City Hall between the City of Milwaukee, its FPC and the City Attorney’s office as to whether or not to honor Judge Foley’s Dec. 18, 2020, order is no excuse or good reason for the continued delay and Respondents’ inaction and disobedience of the Court’s order," Gimbel wrote.
Gimbel added that the city informed him that Morales' retirement from the force would not preclude him from returning to his old position.
Gimbel asks the court to give Morales the same benefits, including his old salary, he had as police chief. He also asks the city to pay attorneys' fees and any loss of income since he left the department.
The FPC has since put on hold its search for a new police chief. In two votes, the commission was gridlocked between the two top candidates, Hoyt Mahaley and Malik Aziz.
Jeffrey Norman was named Acting Police Chief last December when former Acting Police Chief Michael Brunson Sr. retired from the police department.