Morales reinstated chief unless settlement reached in 45 days, judge rules

A judge ruled on Wednesday, May 19 that former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales has been reinstated to the chief post unless a settlement can be reached between his attorneys and the city within 45 days.

The judge stated during a hearing on Wednesday morning, "I am ordering him reinstated. I will stay that order for 45 days if within those 45 days there is a settlement in principle."

Morales was unanimously demoted by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission in August. He announced plans to retire from the department shortly after that decision.

In October, Morales and his attorney filed a legal brief arguing the demotion came without a fair hearing. In November, City Attorney Tearman Spencer agreed.

Milwaukee Inspector General Ronda Kohlheim on Wednesday, Feb. 10 released a summary of her investigation into conflicting reports from the FPC and the City Attorney's Office surrounding the commission's decision to demote Morales from chief to the rank of captain. Kohlheim wrote the FPC "failed" to follow its own rules, and did not give Milwaukee’s former top-cop due process. 

Attorneys for Morales said Wednesday that he never wanted to leave and is ready to come back. It is clear that if the city wants to fight his return, the clock is ticking.

"Morales is reinstated right now, as of today Judge Foley’s decision says you’re back," said Attorney Raymond Dall'Osto. "He never wanted to be removed as chief."

The city, however, argues Morales cannot return because he retired.

"If he did not retire, we would not be here, judge," said Nate Cade, the attorney representing the city of Milwaukee. "Morales retired. If tomorrow Aaron Rodgers says, ‘I retire, because I am not going to play for the Packers anymore,’ you can’t turn around three days later and say make me unretired."

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Judge Christopher Foley was not swayed by the argument.

"The city wants to use their illegal demotion, and result in coerced resignation as a sword to cut off his access to a statutory remedy," Foley said.

Dale Bormann, Milwaukee Police Association President, issued the following statement:

"I think the judge made a correct ruling in this case.  The department must reinstate Chief Morales or pay him. It’s very unfortunate that city attorney Tearman Spencer and/or the Fire & Police Commission made critical errors with the handling of Chief Morales. And now they must either pay him or reinstate him.  

"It’s time to see what the City of Milwaukee will do."

Both Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and City Attorney Tearman Spencer say they do not comment on ongoing litigation.

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