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Milwaukee County pays high price for sheriff’s lawsuits

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee County has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several years to cover the legal costs of lawsuits brought by the county sheriff.

A federal judge this week tossed out Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s lawsuit against County Executive Chris Abele. Clarke alleged that Abele violated his right to free speech by using the budget process to punish Clarke and others who say things Abele disagrees with.

County taxpayers will now have to pick up the $50,000 tab for Clarke’s private attorney, Michael Whitcomb, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The county has already paid Whitcomb more than $260,000 to represent the sheriff in litigation against the county since 2012. The county itself has paid $83,000 defending itself in these lawsuits.

Altogether, the county has spent more than $346,000 for the sheriff to sue the county. With the latest lawsuit, that figure will top $400,000.

“Public safety is too important to Milwaukee families for us to continually waste time and money on lawsuits like this,” said Melissa Baldauff, a spokeswoman for Abele.

Clarke said he has not read the decision in the latest lawsuit, but he had sharp words for Abele. The sheriff did not say if he plans to appeal the decision.

“Abele is the guy who spent $263,000 of his personal wealth trying to defeat me in my last election and he lost,” Clarke said in a statement. “He continues his vendetta by trying to silence me. That little man will stop at nothing.”

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