The committee hosting the Dem National Convention in Milwaukee this summer announced Tuesday night that two of its top executives have been fired after concerns were raised about a hostile work environment.
The Board of Directors said in a statement President Liz Gilbert and Chief of Staff Adam Alonso “are no longer employed by the organization, effective immediately.”
Veteran Dem operative Teresa Vilmain, a Wisconsin resident and convention veteran, will manage day-to-day operations during the transition.
“Every employee has a right to feel respected in their workplace. Based on the information we have learned to date, we believe the work environment did not meet the ideals and expectations of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee Board of Directors,” the board said.
The shakeup comes less than six months before Milwaukee hosts a major party national convention for the first time in what many see as an opportunity for the city to prove it could pull off an event of that magnitude. Organizers exceeded their fundraising goal for 2019. But they’ve also faced logistics questions on how the medium-sized city would pull off the event. The committee has already faced criticism because some delegates are being housed as far away as northern Illinois.
In Tuesday night’s statement, the board said it is continuing a third-party investigation and “will take additional steps as needed to ensure the Host Committee’s office culture reflects respect and dignity for each and every employee.”
Earlier Tuesday, the board announced the investigation following complaints of bullying and harassment raised by Milwaukee 2020 staff. To coordinate the investigation, it retained Foley & Lardner LLP, which then retained the third-party firm to look into the allegations and report back to the board.
The board also said Gilbert wouldn’t be in the office or in contact with other employees “in the interest of ensuring a fair and impartial investigation process.” Also, Alonso was placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler, who had called for a change in leadership following the reports of a hostile work environment, hailed the decision to bring Vilmain on board, calling her a “deeply experienced politico and convention veteran, a one-in-a-million organizer, and a fundamentally decent, kind, and warm human being. Perfect choice.”
See the statement here.