An effort to smooth the transfer of control of Milwaukee County’s House of Correction from Sheriff David Clarke Jr. to Interim Superintendent Michael Hafemann could backfire.
The County Board of Supervisors’ Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee passed a resolution Thursday requiring that Clarke give Hafemann and other county officials access to the HOC and its records. Hafemann needs that access, according to the supervisors, so he can be prepared when he takes the reins.
However, a sheriff’s representative immediately objected and suggested the requirement could become part of the sheriff’s pending lawsuit against the county.
“The constitutional authority of the sheriff is apparently being overlooked,” said Richard Schmidt, an inspector in the Sheriff’s Department. “You cannot order the sheriff to do this.”
Clarke sued the county in December to try to block the transition, claiming he has constitutional authority to oversee the HOC. That lawsuit has not been resolved.
Raisa Koltun, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s director of strategic planning, asked the supervisors to include the resolution forcing Clarke to provide access, saying Abele has been unsuccessful in getting Hafemann, named interim superintendent Friday, into the HOC.
The resolution, which passed 3-2, also shifts the deadline from April 1 to July 31 for Hafemann to take control of the HOC.
Supervisor Jim Schmitt said he doubts Clarke will comply with the resolution.
“Let’s pass it. Let’s feel good about it,” Schmitt said before the vote, “but I don’t have much confidence, I’m sorry to say.”
Kimberly Walker, corporation counsel for the county, said Clarke does not have the authority to bar access. However, she said, the county is expecting the resolution to spark further litigation.
“Inspector Schmidt has advised us,” she said, “that this is an issue that [Clarke] fully intends to address in court.”
Michael Whitcomb, Clarke’s attorney, said he wasn’t prepared to discuss the resolution.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Whitcomb said. “I have no comments on it whatsoever.”
Neither Clarke nor Ron Stadler, an attorney with Milwaukee-based Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP who is representing the county, could not be immediately reached for comment.