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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Recalls Appear Certain;|Labor Wars Continue

MILWAUKEE (CN) - Recall elections against the governor, lieutenant governor and four state senators appear all but certain as labor wars continue in Wisconsin, where the Milwaukee County sheriff is trying to replace deputies who work as courthouse bailiffs with private security guards who are not sworn law enforcement officers.

The Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs' Association sued Milwaukee County and Sheriff David Clarke Jr. in Milwaukee County Court.

Clarke sued the county's Civil Service Commission in a separate complaint in the same court, in a squabble over layoffs and powers.

And the Government Accountability Board will meet today (Friday) to consider the recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Petitioners appear to have gathered enough signatures for recall elections against both, and against four state senators.

One of the Republican senators targeted for recall resigned 2 weeks ago, leaving the Senate in a 16-16 partisan deadlock.

In their complaint, the Deputy Sheriffs' Association says that Sheriff Clarke declared an emergency under county law, authorizing himself to hire private security guards from Wackenhut at an estimated $1,387,360 annually ($26.68 an hour) while 48 deputy sheriffs have been laid off.

Milwaukee County's 2012 budget provided only for $481,326 for bailiff services. The Deputy Sheriffs' Association says Clarke is seeking bids to contract permanently with private companies to provide bailiff services.

The union claims that Clarke and Milwaukee County are compromising courtroom security and are not "preserving or protecting life, health, or welfare of persons." It claims that the only time an emergency purchase can be made is when this preservation or protection is threatened.

The union says Clarke and the county did not collectively bargain, causing the laid-off deputies continued financial hardship. They had a duty, the union says, to offer the positions back to the deputies under civil service law.

Civil Service Rule VIII, Section 8(1) states: "When any officer or employee has been laid off in accordance with the rules of the commission, the person so laid off shall have precedence for recall to a vacancy in the same group and salary and of the same character and standard of work and shall be recalled in the order hereinafter provided," according to the union's complaint.

Wisconsin Statute 111.70(1)(a) requires that "a municipal employer must bargain in good faith with a representative of the majority of its employees with respect to wages, hours, and conditions of employment," but Clarke refused to do this, the union says.

The union claims Clarke has a constitutional duty to attend to Milwaukee County courtrooms. "Historically, Sheriff Clarke fulfilled his duties under the Wisconsin Constitution (Article VI, Section 4) and Wis. Statute 59.27(3) by staffing Milwaukee County Courtrooms exclusively with MDSA [Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs' Association] Deputy Sheriffs," the union says.


That law says that the sheriff of a county shall: "Attend upon the circuit court held in the sheriff's county during its session, and at the request of the court file with the clerk thereof a list of deputies for attendance on the court. The court may by special order authorize additional deputies to attend when the court is engaged in the trial of any person charged with a crime. Except as otherwise provided in this action, the board shall establish the rate of compensation and the level of services to be provided. The sheriff or one or more deputies shall attend the court of appeals when it is in session in the sheriff's county. The state shall reimburse the county from the appropriation under s. 20.660(1) for the actual salary paid to the sheriff or deputies for the service provided for the court of appeals."

The union seeks an injunction preventing the county and sheriff from staffing the Milwaukee County Courthouse with Wackenhut security guards, and attorneys' fees and costs. It is represented by Christopher MacGillis with MacGillis Wiemer.

In his complaint against the Milwaukee County Civil Service Commission, Clarke also alleges violations of the Wisconsin Constitution. Clarke is challenging the commission's decision to reinstate three captains he laid off.

Clarke says in his complaint that the commission "cannot lawfully interfere with the sheriff's constitutionally protected duty to promote and retain deputy sheriff captains."

Clarke claims he has sole discretion to decide which employees he will retain, on the basis of his "perception of their current skills and abilities in relation to their peers, the current needs of the Sheriff's Office considering assignments filled by the current complement of captains, and their resultant value to the Sheriff's Office as determined by [him]."

The laid-off captains won an appeal on the basis of Clarke's violation of Civil Service Rule VIII, Section 5 (Layoff for Non-Represented Employees). They claimed Clarke did not follow the rule, which states: "When it is necessary to reduce staffing levels within a department, non-represented employees may be laid off based on: seniority, or job performance, or attendance, or continued ability to fund the individual position, or need to retain employees with special skills, experience or knowledges which are critical to program functioning, or any combination of the above."

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has long criticized Clarke's political alliance with Gov. Walker. Party Chairman Mike Tate said, "David Clarke was a protected pet of Scott Walker during Walker's disastrous tenure in office, but now that Walker has taken his show to Madison, the curtain is being pulled back to expose Clarke for what he is: a fraud. Clarke has spent his time in office renting horses for parades, getting in petty fights with judges and obsessing over the color of deputies' uniforms. The thing Clarke has not done amid the grandstanding is show anything like fiscal leadership, which makes him more like his ally Scott Walker than he may understand."

It was Walker's so-called Budget Repair bill, which severely restricted the rights of public workers' unions, that set off the state's labor wars and recalls.

The Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, is holding a special meeting today to consider the recall petitions against Walker and Kleefisch.

The board reported in its agenda for the meeting that it has certified 900,938 signatures needed to recall Walker - only 540,208 were needed.

It certified 808,990 signatures to Kleefisch - only 540,208 were needed.

The board is continuing to count signatures for four state senators facing recall, though enough signatures have been verified to recall of them, according to the agenda.

And in a potential game-changer, there is now a 16-16 tie in the state Senate, after Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, abruptly resigned March 16, citing family health issues. Galloway was one of the four state senators facing recall. A recall election for her seat will still take place, but it will be a special election to fill her term.

The board today will recommend recalls for Walker, Kleefisch and the four senators. May 8 primaries and June 5 elections are expected.

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