The real David Clarke shows his face | WisCommunity

The real David Clarke shows his face

If you believe that truth will out, sooner or later, Dan Bice's column on Sunday should reaffirm your faith.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is exposed as the egomaniacal, profanity-spewing tyrant he has been been behind closed doors all along, while posing for holy pictures in public.

The revelation, of Clarke's abusive, two-hour tirade against a deputy who happens to be a union officer, gives the public a rare glimpse of the real David Clarke. It is not a pretty picture.

Let's diclose that I have a personal interest, having run Clarke's first campaign for sheriff in 2002. Of all the campaigns I worked on in 20 years as a consultant, that is the one I regret the most. Clarke completely misrepresented himself to me -- lied about who he was and what he was all about, in other words -- and I swallowed it.

I recall introducing Clarke to a number of union leaders, and the presentations he'd make to them, displaying the management books he'd been reading and talking about how he wanted to "change the culture" in the sheriff's department, from a quasi-military operation with a strict chain of command to one that empowered the front-line workers to make decisions. It was just what they wanted to hear, and they responded with endorsements and contributions.

After the election, Clarke took off his angel mask and let the deputies union and other people who worked for him see the demon underneath.

The way Clarke sees his relationship with his employees is master-slave or king-serf. the only thing missing is the whip.

Clarke has zero respect for the people on the front lines of his agency, and less than zero tolerance for the union, work rules, or anything else that gets in his way. He has demonstrated that repeatedly, and has been slapped down by the courts for his excesses.

Remember the deputy who crossed him and was assigned as a one-man inner city foot patrol with no backup? That spoke volumes.

But this time, thanks to Rich Graber, we have heard a more detailed account of how Clarke operates. Graber is vice-president of the deputies union, which Clarke hates. In the aftermath of a fatal accident at O'Donnell Park, there was a dispute between Clarke and the union over rules about which deputies could be assigned to mandatory overtime. Not a big deal, but Graber insisted on following the rule, as negotiated in the union's labor contract.

Graber was later summoned for a two-hour diatribe (Clarke's mouthpiece calls it a counseling session) by Clarke. Here's what Graber told Bice about the session:

During the two-hour session, Graber said, Clarke called him a "terrorist" to the agency, a "cancer" and a whole variety of expletives.

Graber's written and verbal summaries of the get-together have the second-term sheriff using the F-bomb again and again. He used it as a noun, verb and an adjective...

According to his written summary, one exchange went something like this:

"Why do you keep calling me a (expletive)?" Graber asked. "I'm not a (expletive)."

"You're a (expletive)," Clarke countered, repeating the term.

"Well, you don't know me well then," Graber said.

"I don't want to know you - I want to get rid of you," Clarke said. "I want to rid this agency of waste like you."

 Employee counseling at its best.

"I don't give a (expletive) about your contract," the sheriff said, according to the union official. "I have a job to do, and I'm going to do it how I want."

This is the same sheriff who announced plans recently to start a boot camp at the House of Corrections and said he's do it whether the county board and executive agreed or not, because he is a constitutional officer. He really is Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart as Queeg pictured), of Caine mutiny fame.

According to Graber, his boss accused the sergeant of "(expletive) me in my (expletive)" for not helping him on a host of issues, including his effort to privatize inmate transportation.

"The public loves me, and they hate public (employee) unions," Clarke supposedly said to Graber, according to the sergeant. "You just don't get it."

Clarke is up for reelection in November, and has a challenge in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary from Milwaukee Police Lt. who's waging what appears to be an under-funded guerrilla campaign. With many conservative voters more interested in the Republican primary for governor, Clarke could have a problem, but it's probably a longshot.

We have only heard one side of the story of the Graber- Clarke session, and no doubt Clarke and one of his toadies who was present will deny everything, in a two-against- one situation. But no one who really knows Clarke will doubt for a moment that Graber is telling it like it is.

Will the voters care, or even hear about it? Do they really love David Clarke? (They didn't love him when he ran an embarrassing campaign for mayor, but suburban voters may think this is exactly the kind of counseling that public employees need. We'll see in a month.


August 10, 2010 - 8:44am