MILWAUKEE – Following a definitive ruling in Milwaukee County Circuit Court which confirmed that Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb did not have unilateral authority to file a lawsuit on behalf of the County without County Board authorization and oversight, County Executive Chris Abele is asking supervisors to consider a resolution ensuring that no taxpayer dollars are spent on the unauthorized lawsuit.
Implicit in the Court’s ruling that Chairman Lipscomb didn’t have the unilateral authority to file this unauthorized lawsuit is that the Chairman also did not have authority to spend taxpayer dollars on the lawsuit. Our system of checks and balances ensures that taxpayer resources cannot just be spent by elected officials however they like.
Chairman Lipscomb’s unauthorized lawsuit came at a cost of tens of thousands of wasted taxpayer dollars, money that is better spent funding needed priorities, such as repairs that will allow the County to safely reopen the Domes.
Chairman Lipscomb has since vowed to file another lawsuit against the county executive, which would again be funded with taxpayer dollars, seeking additional power for the County Board to set and approve compensation for hundreds of County employees and to direct the actions of independently elected officials and department heads who don’t report to the Board.
“The right thing for the County Board to do at this point would be to hold the County financially harmless for this unauthorized lawsuit,” County Executive Chris Abele said. “The Board should have the right to bring lawsuits where it’s appropriate, however, as elected officials we must set the highest standards for when taxpayer dollars are spent on legal fees above and beyond the full-time legal department employed by the County. I continue to believe that the County Board and I have much more on which we agree than disagree, and that the people we were elected to serve would much rather we devote our time, energy, and taxpayer resources to solving problems, not creating them.”
A copy of the resolution is available here.
Background on the lawsuit:
The county executive believes that, in order to recruit and retain the best talent, County employees must be paid competitively and fairly, which is why he requested a thorough compensation study at the County more than a year ago. The Board has chosen not to listen to expert compensation recommendations and instead have stalled the process for a year.
While the Board is attempting to make this a political issue and give themselves control over the executive branch after citizens overwhelmingly approved a measure to reduce the size and legislative power of the County Board, more than 500 County employees, mostly public safety positions like Corrections officers, Victim/Witness advocates and paralegals in the District Attorney’s office, and highway workers, are getting paid less than the industry minimum for their position.
The Board is also seeking power to direct the actions of independently elected officials and department heads who don’t report to the Board.
$150,000 in taxpayer funds have already been authorized for the Board to spend on outside legal counsel.