Former Chief Morales files notice of claim against FPC, demands demotion be reviewed

Former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales Thursday, Aug. 20 filed a notice of claim and injury against the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission and city following his demotion to captain, demanding the Milwaukee County Circut Court review the FPC's decision, noting he "hasn't received a copy of any final written findings or order encapsulating the board's decision to demote him and does not know if any such document exists."

It's the first step toward a lawsuit, and Morales alleges the board might have violated state statute by disciplining him for not following board directives.

The notice of claim lays out the timeline of Morales' tenure as chief, beginning with the start of his four-year term Jan. 8, leading up to July 20, when the FPC issued 11 directives to the chief, with deadlines, noting that failure to comply could result in discipline or the chief's job. This, after, in June and July, "the Police Department's handling of civil unrest arising from protests in the City following the death of George Floyd were brought into question by some citizens and the media," the document states.

Morales requested a copy of those directives and asked for a deadline extension, the document notes. The board extended the deadline for one directive.

The notice of claim says on July 28, the city attorney wrote to the mayor, asking that he overrule one of the directives that could "jeopardize" a settlement agreement in a federal civil rights case, and "the mayor took no action." 

On Aug. 4, now-Acting Chief Michael Brunson and then-Chief Morales released a YouTube video defending MPD's use of tear gas and pepper spray, "in compliance with the Board's directive."

The next day, MPD released a report indicating the "Board's list of directives was filled with factual errors and unclear requirements" -- questioning their legality, and noting that their release "could compromise" pending cases.

That led to the Aug. 6 FPC meeting during which Morales was demoted by unanimous vote, with the notice of claim indicating Morales was not allowed to explain his response to the directives, nor was he allowed to be heard in response to the motion to demote him.

The document notes that the board received "voluminous" information on Aug. 6, prior to the meeting where Morales was demoted, regarding these directives, and "it is highly unlikely that this response was read and/or considered by all Board members prior to unanimously voting to remove Morales as Chief."

The document says state statute does not allow the board to impose discipline against a chief for failing to follow a board directive.

The chief alleges the FPC breached his contract, that he was denied due process, that the board took action without just cause and that the board exhibited bias against him prior to the meeting.

Morales has decided to retire, and the notice of claim says retirement "will provide benefits commensurate with his rank as chief," but as a result of his demotion, he has suffered a decrease in pay and benefits equal to the difference between his salary as chief and as captain -- approximately $30,000 per year.

The notice of claim seeks $625,000 in damages for breach of contract, denial of due process and loss of reputation in the community.

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