When Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he tried to privatize as much as he could, usually with disastrous results. His usual modus operandi was to declare some sort of emergency which allegedly could only be resolved through privatization.
He privatized the housekeeping at the courthouse, giving the contract to a campaign donor, leaving the courthouse in an expensive, filthy mess. He privatized the security at the mental health complex, leaving taxpayers on the hook for nearly a half million dollars more each year for a lesser quality of service.
He also tried to privatize the security at the courthouse and children's court center, giving that contract to another campaign donor, Wackenhut. But he botched that up and didn't follow the law. Taxpayers ended up paying for private security guards, county security guards and sheriff's deputies to all do the same job at the same stations.
When Boss Abele took over, he picked up right where Walker left off, using the same underhanded techniques.
Going into this year, Orion Security was providing security services for the mental health complex and the Coggs Building. Orion doesn't like to treat their employees with respect and doesn't like paying them a living wage, which made them a natural fit for Abele, a pro-poverty plutocrat.
When Milwaukee County passed the living wage ordinance, Orion decided that paying their employees a living wage went against their business plan and gave a thirty-day notice to the county that they would not provide services at the Coggs Building.
In response, Abele gave a bridge contract to a company called AlliedBarton Security Services. Because the contract was on a month to month basis, its cost was less than $100,000 and Abele was able to enter into the contract without notifying the board, much less needing their approval.
On Wednesday, more than three months later, Abele put a yearlong contract before the County Board's Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee.
However, instead of being straightforward and transparent, Abele tried pulling a fast one on the committee and on the taxpayers.
First off, he did not provide the committee with a copy of the contract. As Supervisor John Weishan, Jr. pointed out, Abele merely proposed a resolution stating that the county would enter a contract with AlliedBarton for an indefinite amount of time, with an inexact cost and for some county facilities. When questioned on this, Abele's staff told committee member that they didn't have time to present the contract, blaming Abele's new and cumbersome system, but they would get it to them later.
Needless to say, this was met with a healthy dose of skepticism.
But wait! There's more.
As part of his 2015 recommended budget, Abele again brings up the proposal to privatize the security officers at the courthouse and children's court center. Supervisor Pat Jursik had to ask Abele's staff several times whether they were in contract negotiations with AlliedBarton to take over the courthouse services before they finally admitted it.
But wait! There's more. With all things Abele, just like his mentor, Walker, there is always more.
Supervisor Theo Lipscomb revealed that AlliedBarton was in the courthouse on the very same day, doing what could be described as a recruiting drive. The company was in the courthouse, meeting with county workers, telling them that they were going to be their new employer and explaining what their pay and benefits would be.
When asked about this, Abele's people again tried to lie about it. When they finally admitted that the company was in the building and meeting with county employees, they tried to say that this was just in case the privatization plan was approved. When Lipscomb asked if they were waiting until the budget was approved, why didn't they wait until - wait for it - the budget was actually approved, Abele's people again had no answer.
You can see the interchange for yourself in this video, starting at the 2 hours 27 minute mark.
This incident solidly verifies two points, besides the one that we already knew - that Abele is an underhanded character with no morals or ethics.
Firstly, it shows just how bad of an idea Act 14 really is. In two years, the county supervisors will be basically cut down to a part time status. One must wonder if part time supervisors would have caught this. If they come in and are tired and hurried from working another job, it is easy to believe that this would have slipped by.
And if it had slipped by, even if the county said no to the privatization of the courthouse security in the budget, it would still happen because they approved the contract without realizing it. Then we are in the same mess we had when Walker did it.
Secondly, it shows the importance of voting yes on the county executive versus county administrator referendum question. Without any accountability, we will see this same type of unethical and irresponsible behaviors, with it is by Abele or someone else.