MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee and its former police chief could finally part ways after a lengthy legal battle.
The Milwaukee Common Council voted Tuesday to approve a $627,000 settlement with Alfonso Morales over his demotion last year. A federal lawsuit by the former chief over his ouster would be dropped as part of the agreement. Morales has 21 days to sign off on the negotiated deal.
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, a citizen panel, unanimously voted to remove Morales as chief last August, claiming he failed to fulfill a list of directives.
But Milwaukee County Judge Christopher Foley in December reversed the civilian commission’s decision to demote Morales to captain, which had prompted Morales to retire and sue. Foley at the time called the commission’s process “fundamentally flawed.”
Under the agreement, the city and commission would not admit to any negligence or to having violated any contract or federal, state and local laws.
The commission’s vote came days before an Aug. 1 deadline agreed to by both sides to resolve the matter.
“It leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” Alderman Michael Murphy said of the settlement. “This was a totally avoidable problem. The accountability is missing.”
Murphy contends Mayor Tom Barrett could have simply vetoed the directives issued by the commission.
When settlement talks broke down in recent weeks, Judge Foley ordered that Morales be reinstated as chief, calling the conduct of the city and commission “disgraceful.”
“I’m forcing the city to either obey the law or buy their way out of this because of what they did,” Foley said. “Do I want to be in this position? Hell no. But I am in this position and they disregarded the law and the law affords him this remedy and if they don’t want to afford him this remedy, then find a solution short of that.”
Morales, a Milwaukee native, joined the department in 1993 and became a district captain before the commission selected him as chief in 2018.