Milwaukee FPC chairman had 'mixed interest' in sex assault case, investigator says

MILWAUKEE -- An investigator hired by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (FPC) revealed new details about a conflict of interest for its chairman, Steven DeVougas, at an FPC meeting on Thursday, July 2.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he will be taking a look at the findings, which center around whether DeVougas used his position and violated any ethical policy. As it turns out, there is no code of ethics for the FPC.

Steven DeVougas

What started as an investigation into a leaked video involving DeVougas took a turn at Thursday's FPC meeting. The video, sent to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last year, showed DeVougas, a lawyer, alongside Kalan Haywood Sr., a real estate developer, who was a suspect in a sexual assault case.

Haywood was never charged, but Mel Johnson was hired by the FPC to investigate any wrongdoing.

Mel Johnson

"First of all, I contended Mr. DeVougas was untruthful in saying he was there as corporate counsel for a real estate company and not representing Mr. Haywood. Second, I thought it was ironic and disingenuous for him to be the only witness to refuse to be interviewed when it was an investigation authorized by the commission that he's the chairman of," Johnson said.

Johnson said DeVougas was employed for Haywood's development company. He still maintained his position overseeing all disciplinary issues for the Milwaukee Police Department when he appeared with Haywood. Johnson said that constitutes an aggravated conflict of interest.

"He's got kind of a mixed interest; partly the interests of the department, partly the interest of the client he's appearing as an attorney for," said Johnson.

Milwaukee Police Department

All of this was going on when Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales was up for reappointment. The investigator determined the two were not connected. The investigator also looked into the source of the leaked video.

"Is it possible there is a coverup, certainly. But we did not unearth any evidence showing there was a coverup and if there was one, and, if there was one, we did not unearth any evidence which would demonstrate who was responsible," Johnson said.

Johnson mentioned a letter from the Milwaukee city attorney, stating that DeVougas was not in violation of any FPC rules. As it turns out, there are no FPC rules regarding conflict of interest. However, such rules do exist at the city level. It's something the FPC said it is looking to change.

Vaun Mayes at FPC meeting

Also at Thursday's FPC meeting was Milwaukee community activist Vaun Mayes. Mayes was arrested following unrest last month near 40th and Lloyd. At the FPC meeting, Mayes said he did nothing wrong.

"I went to a situation that was volatile from the beginning. And I did everything I could to de-escalate that situation and to defuse it...And what did I get for my efforts but charges," Mayes said.

He was let out of custody after his arrest for burglary and trespassing. Mayes said the officers at the scene made things worse, and that he wants de-escalation training prioritized within the Milwaukee Police Department.