MILWAUKEE — Questions have come up about whether the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission violated Wisconsin law. It is not for the actions inside the meeting where the FPC voted to demote Chief Alfonso Morales, but the minutes following it.
The FPC is facing legal scrutiny for its August 6 meeting. In that meeting, the commission demoted Chief Morales to Captain and elected a new chairperson. Then they adjourned. That was at 7:25 p.m.
Members of the public and the city attorney all left the closed meeting room, but the committee members did not. For 20 minutes until nearly 7:45 p.m. they stayed behind closed doors with members of the Milwaukee Police Department guarding the entrance and not allowing anyone inside.
That changed when TMJ4 News and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel started asking police to let us in.
“They either have to be public and airing what is happening, or they have to be out here or they have to be available to the public,” said TMJ4 reporter Rebecca Klopf to an unidentified Milwaukee Police Officer.
The officer said he would knock on the meeting room door. Then, a Milwaukee Police Sergeant stepped in and went into the room itself to speak with the commissioners saying he would voice our concerns
Only then were the doors opened to the public. More than 20 minutes after the meeting finished.
According to the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council’s President Bill Lueders, those 20 minutes violated the public’s right to know.
“What was discussed during those 20 minutes, do you know, do I know, does anybody know? The fact is we should all know. Those bodies are not supposed to have secret discussions. And if they do meet without allowing the public to attend they are breaking the law,” said Lueders.
So TMJ4 News filed a complaint Wednesday after with Milwaukee County.
The Fire and Police Commission’s Executive Director Griselda Aldrete issued this statement:
“The Commission was NOT violating Open Meetings Law; as when the meeting adjourned on August 6, 2020, the Commissioners and I were signing necessary documents to ensure what we approved during the regular meeting was documented. However, the doors were NOT locked and anyone could have entered the room.”
“This was pretty a point-blank violation of the law. They could say you could have found some way into the room that the doors weren’t locked or something like that. That’s really a weak excuse,” said Lueders.
Milwaukee County’s Corporation Counsel is now looking into the violation. We will keep you updated on any further actions that are taken.