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Milwaukee County supervisors move to restore HOC money

By: Eric Heisig//October 28, 2013//

Milwaukee County supervisors move to restore HOC money

By: Eric Heisig//October 28, 2013//

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Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke

Eight Milwaukee County supervisors said Monday that they trust the sheriff to catch House of Correction absconders, despite those who say he has failed to do so in the past.

The supervisors, who are all part of the county’s Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee, voted in favor of an amendment to restore the majority of $12.5 million taken from Sheriff David Clarke’s office in County Executive Chris Abele’s budget proposal.

The budget amendment, proposed by committee co-chairman Willie Johnson Jr. and Supervisors Theo Lipscomb Sr. and Peggy Romo West, restored a number of duties Abele had taken away from the sheriff in his proposed budget, including the operation of the training facility in Franklin and patrolling the county’s parks.

It also restored money for five investigator positions Abele said should go to District Attorney John Chisholm so his office could keep tabs on those who are on electronic monitoring through the House of Correction.

Supervisor Pat Jursik was the sole dissenting vote.

“Excuse me if I’m not going to get too excited about all of this cooperative talk that we’re hearing currently,” Jursik said. “I can’t help but notice that the sheriff philosophically does not agree with electronic monitoring.”

Abele’s office has said the same thing. The county executive asked Chisholm’s office to take on the duties because after Clarke lost control of the House of Correction in May, his office stopped responding to requests to catch HOC inmates.

Clarke did not appear at Monday’s hearing. But his chief deputy, Richard Schmidt, said at the hearing that deputies would respond to those requests from now on.

That, as well as other assurances made by Schmidt in the past few weeks, seemed to placate most of the supervisors.

“I have no reason to believe they wouldn’t follow through on that,” Romo West said.

It also seemed to, at least for now, quell concerns expressed by House of Correction Superintendent Michael Hafemann and Chief Judge Jeff Kremers, who both said the sheriff has not responded to repeated requests to pick up absconders.

“I don’t care who has the absconder unit,” Kremers said. “It doesn’t matter to the court one bit. What I care about is that somebody is going out immediately upon being notified that somebody is violating a rule and picking them up.”

Abele’s spokesman, Brendan Conway, said nobody should have any “reason to believe the sheriff is going to do this,” however. Conway stopped short of saying whether the county executive would veto that portion of the budget.

“The county exec continues to believe there are better ways to do these things than the status quo,” Conway said.

Jursik said she is considering an amendment to put the investigator money back into the DA’s hands.

Chisholm testified earlier this month that the new investigator positions only were being taken after the county executive requested that they handle absconders. The positions also would have been used to bolster the office’s witness protection program.

The committee will be hearing amendments to the budget this week. Its amended budget then will go to the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors for approval.

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