Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sheriff Clarke breaks the law again

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke likes to run the department like it's his personal fiefdom. He rules with an iron fist, and woe be unto anyone who dares to challenge or disagree with him.

Every now and then, though, the law gets in between Clarke and the absolute authority he covets. For example, he was found in contempt of court awhile back for the way he operates the jail and ignores court orders for improvement.

Latest case in point: A circuit court judge has ruled that Clarke violated state law when he demoted a sergeant who disagreed with a rule change Clarke wanted from the county's Civil Service Commission.

Clarke violated the Law Enforcement Office Bill of Rights by demoting the sergeant for engaging in political activity, Judge M. Joseph Donald ruled in issuing a summary judgment against Clarke. Court record.

The deputy in question, Rollan Parish, was "temporarily" promoted to sergeant by Clarke in April 2004. "Temporary" promotions are one more way Clarke has tried to bend the civil service rules. Parish took a civil service test for the promotion, and scored fifth out of more than 100 who took the test.

A year later, Parish was still a "temporary" sergeant, when Clarke asked the Civil Service Commission in May 2005 to change its rules. They specify that when there is a vacancy, the promotion should come from the top 10 names on the eligibility list. Clarke wanted a change to allow him to hire anyone on the eligible list, basically bypassing the civil service ranking and letting him promote whomever he wanted.

At a hearing on Clarke's request, Clarke's right-hand man, Inspector Kevin Carr, made the case for the change. The Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Assn. opposed the change and also objected to Clarke's uses of "temporary" promotions to circumvent civil service rules. In defending the practice, Carr cited Parish, who was present, as an example of someone Clarke had given a temporary promotion but intended to give a permanent position in the future.

That put Parish in the uncomfortable position of having to speak out against the rule change and the temporary promotions. Parish did get up and state for the record that he opposed the change. Parish was at the hearing on his own time, in plain clothes.

The next day, Carr told Parish that as a result of his comments he "could no longer be trusted, was disloyal, and had to either resign his new rank or he was going to be demoted."

Parish refused to resign and was stripped of his promotion the same day. Clarke and Carr did not dispute that he lost his rank because of his actions at the hearing.

Judge Donald will hold a hearing later this month to decide the proper remedy for violation of the state law. The union wants misdemeanor charges filed against Clarke, among other things. Having him shot at sunrise was not an option.


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