Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors: Supervisor Schmitt denounces Abele’s power grab in Madison

For Immediate Release: February 2, 2018

Contact: Brian Rothgery, brian.rothgery@milwaukeecountywi.gov

Supervisor Schmitt Denounces Abele’s Power Grab in Madison

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors declared its opposition yesterday  to draft legislation circulating in Madison that would grant sweeping new powers to county executives and administrators across Wisconsin, and reduce or eliminate legislative oversight of local county boards. The bill would grant a county executive or administrator broad powers such as the ability to adopt a wheel tax of any value, even over the objection of the legislative branch. Milwaukee County Supervisors listened to the public, who rejected County Executive Chris Abele’s proposal to double the wheel tax by 72%, and voted down his proposal. Supervisor James “Luigi” Schmitt denounced the effort to consolidate power for County Executive Abele.

“We’ve seen this kind of legislation before, and each time the result was more power for County Executive Chris Abele. The unprecedented power that County Executive Able has amassed so far clearly isn’t enough for him – he wants it all. No checks and balances, no role for the legislative branch, and the ability to totally dominate county government without any meaningful oversight. This bill reads like a wish list for someone who wants dictatorial powers, and it’s clearly coming from the office of the County Executive,” said Schmitt.

The bill would also extend to county executives and administrators the unprecedented powers previously granted only to the Milwaukee County Executive, along with the kinds of irreconcilable legal conflicts seen in Milwaukee County government since the passage of similar legislation.

The draft bill would eliminate fiscal controls on spending taxpayer dollars, and allow a county executive to unilaterally issue debt without notification to or approval by the county board.

The bill also specifies that in the event there is a “conflict,” or a disagreement over policy, the county executive prevails, meaning they could automatically override county board action, irrespective of the opinion of a county’s own lawyers, and without adjudication by a court.

If adopted, the legislation would establish county executives and administrators as essentially above the law, effectively eliminating not only common legislative checks and balances, such as a the ability of a super majority to override a veto, but also independent judicial review of conflicts.

A lobbying group called County Leaders for Modernization is pushing for the legislation, and previously listed the Milwaukee County Executive’s taxpayer funded staff lobbyist as their contact person, according to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. The County Executive’s lobbyist has now been removed as their point of contact.

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