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Milwaukee City Attorney top deputy Odalo Ohiku resigns amid investigations

By: Bridgetower Media Newswires//March 1, 2024//

Milwaukee Deputy City Attorney Odalo Ohiku. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Photo / City of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee City Attorney top deputy Odalo Ohiku resigns amid investigations

By: Bridgetower Media Newswires//March 1, 2024//

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By Daniel Bice and Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Deputy City Attorney Odalo Ohiku, the embattled No. 2 to City Attorney Tearman Spencer, has stepped down from his city job amid allegations he was doing private legal work on the taxpayers’ dime.

Employees in the City Attorney’s Office were alerted to Ohiku’s resignation in an email Thursday afternoon.

“Please be advised that Deputy City Attorney Odalo Ohiku has resigned his position,” said the email from Sharon Crowe, the human resources administrator. “Effective immediately, Deputy City Attorney Robin Pederson has been assigned to take over his duties until further notice.”

In his resignation notice Ohiku listed among his reasons for leaving city employment better work-life balance, salary or incentives and “Peace, Health, Love & Happiness.”

Neither Spencer nor Ohiku responded to calls for comment. Spencer is up for re-election for a second term in April. He is opposed by state Rep. Evan Goyke, a Milwaukee Democrat.

A spokesman for Goyke said he had no comment.

Ohiku’s resignation comes as he was dealing with investigations by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office — which is looking into allegations of misconduct in public office, a Class I felony — and several other violations. He is also being investigated by the city Ethics Board.

The investigations were prompted by 57-page report from city Inspector General Ronda Kohlheim, who concluded that Ohiku was doing work on cases for his private law firm on city time and lying on his time cards about that work. Spencer has dismissed the report, calling it “ludicrous.”

Overall, the report said Ohiku spent an estimated 88 hours working for clients of his personal law firm while on the city clock, bilking the city out of $5,766. Kohlheim said her estimate was conservative and could not account for the hours when he did not have court appearances. As of last year Ohiku’s annual city salary was $133,000.

In 2020, the Journal Sentinel reported that he still had 45 open court cases in which he was the attorney of record for one of the parties, mostly criminal defendants. Only a month into the job, Ohiku had made more than a half-dozen appearances in court during the workday.

Kohlheim also concluded that Ohiku failed to disclose income from Ohiku Law Office in his 2020, 2021 and 2022 Statements of Economic Interest even though he was doing private work on city time. The public relies on these records to determine whether a public official has a conflict of interest or other financial issues.

In response, the city Ethics Board decided earlier this month to ask the state Department of Revenue to turn over Ohiku’s tax returns for those years so it could compare them to Ohiku’s financial statements.

Kohlheim said she did not receive Ohiku’s income tax returns as part of her investigation.

It was not immediately clear what impact his resignation would have on the investigation by the Ethics Board and the decision before the District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s Office officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Michael Kruse, the chairman of the Ethics Board, said the panel would decide at its next meeting what to do in light of Ohiku’s resignation.

“When this issue last came before the Ethics Board, the board terminated the investigation on the grounds it no longer had jurisdiction because the individual was no longer a city official or employee,” Kruse wrote.

In response to the issues in Spencer’s office, a proposed ordinance has been introduced at the Common Council that would prohibit any licensed lawyer in the City Attorney’s Office from engaging in the private practice of law.

Each line item on a private practice billing statement would be considered a separate violation of the city Ethics Code and subject to a penalty of between $100 and $1,000.

Ald. Robert Bauman, the measure’s sponsor, said he didn’t know Ohiku personally and had nothing to say about him or his work.

About Spencer, though, he said these kinds of issues are part of a pattern.

“It’s just an example of Tearman just ignoring the rules, ignoring the law, doing what he pleases for whatever reason — or no reason,” Bauman said.

This article first appeared on and was republished with expressed permission from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.



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