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Milwaukee supervisors look to return money to sheriff’s budget

By: Eric Heisig//October 22, 2013//

Milwaukee supervisors look to return money to sheriff’s budget

By: Eric Heisig//October 22, 2013//

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Milwaukee County supervisors want Sheriff David Clarke’s office to keep millions of dollars County Executive Chris Abele seeks to take away.

Supervisor Peggy Romo West said she has nine co-sponsors for a proposal that would return to the sheriff’s budget more than $12.5 million Abele seeks to spend elsewhere.

In Abele’s proposed 2014 budget, which he proposed in late September, the sheriff’s office would lose some duties they current perform, along with the money. Clarke’s office would lose about 69 jobs under Abele’s budget.

Changes proposed include shifting about $581,000 to the District Attorney’s office for creation of a five-investigator unit tasked with catching people who abscond from House of Correction supervision. A team of five sheriff’s office investigators currently handles that duty.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said Abele’s office asked him to take on that responsibility because Clarke’s office was not performing the duties it was tasked to do. Those concerns were echoed Oct. 15 in testimony before the county’s Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee. House of Correction Assistant Superintendent Kerri McKenzie testified that the sheriff’s office did not respond to HOC requests to pick up those who absconded.

A follow-up email to the committee, attributed to McKenzie, said Chisholm’s office ended up assisting when HOC got no response from the sheriff’s office.

Clarke lost control of the HOC following a terse battle with the county that ended up spilling into court. That, along with other disagreements, has been at the heart of a tense relationship between the sheriff and the county executive.

West said Clarke’s office’s failure to help with absconded people was due to a “lack of communication,” however.

“I think the county executive was under the impression that all that department did was deal with absconsion, and that’s not the case,” Romo West said, noting the five-person unit also is responsible for handling warrants and civil processes.

Brendan Conway, Abele’s spokesman, defended the county executive’s budget, saying it was “based on facts and data to do what’s best for the county.” To put all the money back in the sheriff’s office’s budget, he said, “would be to question what their decisions are based on.”

Amendments to the budget will be introduced starting Monday. Romo West said seven of the co-sponsors for her amendment are on the finance committee, which would most likely discuss and vote on the proposal.

The only supervisors that had not yet signed on as sponsors, she said, were David Cullen and Pat Jursik. Both did not immediately return calls late Tuesday.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin said the office would not yet comment because the amendment had not yet been introduced.

DA Chief Investigator David Budde said prosecutors would not lose anything if the money is returned to the sheriff’s budget.

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