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House of Correction lawsuit in limbo

By: Beth Kevit, [email protected]//April 18, 2013//

House of Correction lawsuit in limbo

By: Beth Kevit, [email protected]//April 18, 2013//

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Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke

A judge delayed a decision Thursday on whether Sheriff David Clarke Jr.’s lawsuit over House of Correction control will go to trial.

Clarke sued Milwaukee County in December after the Board of Supervisors included a provision in the 2013 budget that would transfer control of the HOC in Franklin to a superintendent. Clarke has managed the HOC since 2009, when the board jettisoned then-Superintendent Ron Malone. However, supervisors have said, the board decided to reinstate the superintendent position because of disagreements with how Clarke runs the HOC.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has named Michael Hafemann interim superintendent but has said an official nomination will not happen until the lawsuit is resolved.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Van Grunsven heard the county’s motion for summary judgment Thursday but said he wants more time to review the case before ruling. He will reveal his decision May 1.

Michael Whitcomb, Clarke’s attorney, argued issues of fact remain, claiming the county cannot prove it properly established a house of correction. When Clarke took control in 2009, Whitcomb said, the County Board made the facility a jail and, through the 2013 budget, did not establish a house of correction that a superintendent could manage.

Under state statute, either a superintendent or sheriff can manage a house of correction but only a sheriff may manage a jail.

However, Whitcomb could not produce a record of any County Board action, such as a resolution or ordinance, that would have registered the supervisors’ intention of creating a jail in Franklin. Three supervisors — Mark Borkowski, Pat Jursik and John Weishan Jr. — have denied any such action occurred.

Ron Stadler, an attorney with Gonzalez, Saggio & Harlan LLP who is representing the county, said the board did not have to reestablish a house of correction in 2013. The county has had a house of correction since 1855, he said, and Clarke’s brief stint at its helm has not turned the HOC into a jail.

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