MILWAUKEE (CN) - Labor turmoil continues in Wisconsin, where Milwaukee County has sued its sheriff for refusing to lay off 27 deputies as ordered, and telling them to keep coming to work.
The county axed the 27 jobs in its 2012 Budget, but Sheriff David Clarke Jr. "directed his Human Resources Manager Marlo Knox to contact those deputies sheriffs [sic] who received layoff notices, and order them to report to work as usual, disregarding the action taken by Milwaukee County," according to the Superior Court complaint.
The county says Clarke "has no authority [to] retain or continue the services of deputies who have been laid off due to lack of funds in accordance with Milwaukee County Civil Service Rules and applicable collective bargaining agreements."
The budget originally ordered 61 deputies to be laid off, but retirements trimmed the number to 27.
The county's Corporation Counsel Kimberly Walker told WISN Channel 12 that she took "an unusual step" to sue the sheriff because "he is operating outside of the authority that he's granted."
"If something happens, then we are exposing the county to liability, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute," Walker said.
Walker said that because the 27 deputies are working without legal police powers, "Anyone who they arrest, cite or injure could sue the deputies and the county."
In its complaint, Milwaukee County says it is liable "for wages and benefits, and to liability for other employment related costs such as worker's compensation, unemployment insurance, and vicarious liability for employee acts and omissions, arising from the wrongful retention of those deputies, and no funds have been appropriated to pay those costs."
It continues: "Such acts expose Milwaukee County to liability for failure to adhere to the terms agreed upon between Milwaukee County and the deputies' union related to the collective bargaining agreement.
"Such acts expose Milwaukee County to liability for alleged violation of the civil rights of persons arrested or otherwise detained by the unlawfully retained deputies because of the uncertainty concerning the status of those deputies as law enforcement officers."
It claims Clarke's decision to keep the laid-off deputies working also "impairs the enforcement of the Milwaukee County motor vehicle code and other ordinances enforced by issuing citation, with resulting loss of revenue."
The county claims Clarke violated state laws, Milwaukee County general ordinances and the civil service law by retaining the laid-off deputies because "such an act is in excess of his lawful authority."
Clarke told local radio station WOKY that Milwaukee County has "a more mixed-up government" than any he's ever seen.
He called the 2012 budget "a train wreck of a budget ... so screwed-up it's unbelievable. It decimates public safety in Milwaukee County."
Clarke said the only thing he cares about in this "whole ball of confusion ... is the safety and personal security of the people of Milwaukee County."
He said he does not know where Walker went to law school "but she oughta go back and get her money back because she didn't know that a lawyer can't sue their client."
Walker has represented Sheriff Clarke in the past. Superior Court Judge Jane Carroll ruled on Tuesday that the county must hire outside counsel to pursue the case.
Clarke hired his own counsel, Michael Whitcomb, who said the case should be thrown out.
Whitcomb told WISN-TV that Clarke is a constitutional officer and "no one can interfere with" the decisions he makes to protect "the citizenry of Milwaukee County."
Judge Carroll on Tuesday declined the county's request for a temporary restraining order. She scheduled a hearing for Jan. 27.
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