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Franklin wants sheriff to stay in charge of Milwaukee County Correctional Facility

County Board to install superintendent

Dec. 5, 2012

Franklin - The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to challenge a move by the Milwaukee County Board to move management of the Milwaukee County Correctional Facility South from the Sheriff's Office to a superintendent.

City officials said the county's move likely will jeopardize the safety of city residents.

The three-part resolution was proposed by Alderman Steve Olson, whose district is home to the corrections facility. It directs Mayor Tom Taylor to communicate with County Executive Chris Abele, have city staff draft a communication outlining the city's concerns and have Police Chief Rick Oliva resurrect a community task force that once addressed opposition to having the city be the site of any housing for convicted sexual predators.

Those actions are expected to be reviewed in January.

Tuesday's vote was the culmination of a Committee of the Whole discussion Monday in which aldermen expressed detailed concerns about the jail facility, 8885 S. 68th St.

They said the facility in the past had been badly managed to the point that inmates had escaped. They referenced at least two incidents, one from 2007 and one from 2008.

"I would urge the city to do whatever it can with this," Olson said. "What works in this facility is a paramilitary operation."

That operation has existed since the Sheriff's Department took leadership of the jail in 2009 after the city and county deemed previous management - including superintendents - unacceptable.

Sheriff's rule lauded

Taylor was in his first years in office at the time of the 2007 escape. He said the facility was just a step from being closed and that the environment in the facility drastically changed for the better once the Sheriff's Department took over management

"Under the sheriff, it went from a facility that was under the control of the inmates to what was clearly under the management of the sheriff," Taylor said. "I understand that the sheriff has voluntarily agreed to this change, but that doesn't lighten the worry for this mayor or for those in this city. I have grave, grave concerns about this."

Despite those concerns, city officials note that they have no specific authority to change the County Board decision. Taylor said that should not deter the city from questioning the move.

"Just because a municipality may be a little smaller than the county or the state, that doesn't mean we don't have huge rights," he said.

Executive's concerns

County Executive Chris Abele on Tuesday said he also is concerned about the move, but for different reasons. While he wants to take a longer period to get the right management in place, the County Board approved an amendment with an April 1 funding date.

"For us to do this the way we want to, we would have to get someone in by January or February so they can begin putting their team in place," Abele said. "But the County Board didn't approve the funding until April 1."

Abele said a superintendent starting that day would not be practical without the benefit of having transition time.

Abele also said he does not have a specific type of superintendent in mind, meaning that he could favor a good manager with decision-making expertise over a corrections expert who may not have management attributes.

Relationship question

The city's challenge over the County Board decision generates a larger question about the relationship of the two governing units, Franklin officials said. Alderman Steve Taylor, also a member of the County Board, voted against the management change.

"The board did not communicate with the city on this matter or how it may affect this municipality, but they did not have to do that," Steve Taylor said. "When we (the city) do projects such as road work that abuts to county parks, do we work with the county? Those are interesting questions."

Taylor joined Mayor Tom Taylor and others on the Common Council in noting that residents in general would prefer that the corrections facility not be in Franklin. According to them, it dates back to the early 1950s when it was a minimal security operation.

About seven years ago, the city's task force, now being resurrected by Chief Oliva, successfully rebuffed a proposal to put a halfway house for convicted sexual predators in the city. That would have been constructed on the corrections grounds but outside its walls.

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