David Clarke to Chris Abele: 'No one is the boss of me' | WisCommunity

David Clarke to Chris Abele: 'No one is the boss of me'

The proposed budget that Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele would seriously cut funding for the sheriff's department, one unit of county government that has been spared in previous budgets and now accounts for one-third of the tax levy.

Abele even proposed cutting the money Clarke uses to rent a horse to ride in parades.

You didn't need to be the oracle of Delphi to predict that there would be an eruption from Sheriff David Clarke, who has run the department with an arrogance seldom seen in officials who have to rely on the voters for their job.

Clarke has a theory that because he is a constitutional officer, no one can tell him what to do or how to spend money.

Let there be any doubt about that, he's to Abele today.

From anyone else, this response would be incredible. From a petulant David Clarke, it's predictable. We'll skip the personal attacks and just deal with the meat of it:

There’s no questioning [Abele's] authority to propose a budget for Milwaukee County. My advice to him, however, is to go back and read the state constitution, state statutes and the case law relative to the authority of a sheriff. He obviously did not take the time to educate himself.

He does not run the Office of the Sheriff, and I do not take orders or directives from a county executive. Case law is very clear that the sheriff alone decides how to carry out his duty and responsibility. His budget is an obvious attempt to micromanage my office. I am independently elected by the voters of Milwaukee County. He may think that he can eliminate the Discipline Order Training and Structure (DOTS) program, but let me be very clear on this – the DOTS program is staying.

He may think that he can require me to submit reports, but again, the state constitution is very clear when it states that no county official can require a sheriff to submit reports. He can create any study group that he wants and they can make any recommendations they want. Again, I will refer the county executive back to the state constitution and case law that show that the sheriff alone decides how to carry out the duties and responsibilities of his office. My advice to him is not to hold his breath, because he’s not getting any reports.

... The first thing that will be cut as a result of this insane budget decrease will be in the area of inmate programs. Inmate programs, except DOTS, will cease to exist and the money saved will be applied to keeping the county a safe place for law-abiding people.

It makes you wonder whether Clarke thinks he has the power to levy taxes, too.

What's interesting is what Clarke had to say last year, when he was running for reelection, in an interview with :

Q: What cost-saving measures would you implement during your term to reduce the tax burden of the department, and what areas of the department need more funding and why?

A: “I have balanced six consecutive budgets, after years of multi-million dollar deficits from previous administrations.

“My opponent talks about my ‘budget cuts.’ His lack of understanding about the public agency budgeting process is evident,” Clarke said, moving into a lengthy explanation of the county budgeting process. He noted that the Sheriff must live within the boundaries of the county board-approved budget and that he has no authority to “cut” budgets.

“That authority is vested in the legislative and executive branch. My opponent, because of his lack of executive level training, education and experience, wrongly believes that he can do whatever he wants with the budget after it is passed. His approach is what led to the multi-million dollar deficits of the past."

So Clarke agreed that the county board and executive set the county's budget. At issue is whether they can force him to live within it, or whether he can thumb his nose at the established process -- and the voters -- and simply spend as much as he wants however he wants.

His first threat, as usual, is to take it out on the inmates and cut services to them.

If he perists, we may be hearing from the judicial branch on this one. And I don't think Clarke will like the verdict.


September 29, 2011 - 4:30pm