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House of Correction control hits another snag

By: Beth Kevit, [email protected]//March 12, 2013//

House of Correction control hits another snag

By: Beth Kevit, [email protected]//March 12, 2013//

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Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke

Milwaukee County supervisors may have inadvertently complicated their effort to transfer control of the House of Correction.

Supervisors want the facility to be run by a superintendent instead of Sheriff David Clarke Jr. But they voted to create the superintendent position before the county executive was prepared to fill it.

The transfer was approved through the 2013 budget and was scheduled to occur April 1. That same day, the position of a superintendent to oversee the facility would have been created.

However, Clarke sued the county in December to retain oversight, which he has had since 2009. Prior to that, Milwaukee County had a superintendent run the HOC.

Concerns stemming from the lawsuit prompted County Executive Chris Abele to request a delay of the April 1 deadline. Supervisors met that request Tuesday, shifting the deadline to July 31.

However, the board also voted to create the superintendent’s position before that deadline. Doing so, said Brendan Conway, Abele’s director of communications, could hamper the interim superintendent’s ability to access the HOC before the lawsuit is resolved.

Abele named Michael Hafemann interim superintendent March 1.

Hafemann can’t fill the superintendent’s role, Conway said, until Clarke’s lawsuit is resolved and the county can enforce the transfer. Until that time, he said, Hafemann is attempting to figure out what he will do at the HOC.

The original resolution the supervisors were to consider Tuesday would have required Clarke to immediately grant Hafemann and Abele access to the HOC and its records.

However, an amendment proposed by Supervisor David Cullen changed that requirement. The board passed the amended resolution 12 to 4, and Clarke must now grant access once Hafemann is confirmed as superintendent of the HOC by the County Board.

Conway said Abele was not aware of the amendment before the board meeting. Copies of the amendment were passed out during discussion of the original resolution.

Cullen said he hadn’t spoken with Clarke about the amendment. He saw Clarke’s reluctance to allow Hafemann or the county executive’s office to access the HOC, he said, and thought waiting until Hafemann was officially confirmed could provide a compromise.

The problem, Conway said, is the board needs Abele to nominate Hafemann to the position in order to confirm him. That will not happen, he said, until Clarke’s lawsuit is resolved.

“Had they discussed and passed that [original resolution], Hafemann could have been on his way to Franklin right now,” Conway said. “It slows down the process.”

Mark Grady, deputy corporation counsel for the county, told the board’s Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee at its March meeting that Clarke still might refuse access despite a resolution.

Michael Whitcomb, Clarke’s attorney, declined to comment on either the original resolution or amended version.

Conway said he is not sure if Abele will veto the amendment to the resolution.


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