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Milwaukee County’s No Snitching Policy

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 13, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Most people are already aware of the problems going on with the Milwaukee County Behavioral Heath Division.  While the problems are many, one stands out above the rest, which is the fact that patients at BHD are being allowed to be sexually assaulted.

This problem became exasperated by the thoughtless statements made by the Director of BHD, John Chianelli, who called the sexual assaults a “trade off” for having less incidents of other types of physical assaults.

Chianelli made these deplorable statements in a closed session with members of the County Board.  They were brought to light by Supervisor Lynne De Bruin, who was so outraged by this cavalier attitude that she felt the need to berate Chianelli in a letter which came to the attention via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Unfortunately, several of her colleagues on the Board do not see her actions as being appropriate, and are planning on introducing a resolution to have De Bruin censured.  Board Chairman Holloway stated that De Bruin’s actions were “willful acts of misconduct.”  The resolution accuses De Bruin of breaking a trust and says that it might inhibit full disclosure from department heads in the future.

Supervisors Elizabeth Coggs, Peggy West and Joe Sanfelippo also signed on to sponsor this resolution.

They are also taking this up after Corp Counsel and, if I’m not mistaken, the Ethics Board, had said that De Bruin had done nothing wrong or illegal.

While there are many issues that I could take up with De Bruin’s past decisions and actions, this resolution and anyone who supports it are very much in the wrong.  These problems and the disturbing attitude of Chianelli’s needed to be brought into the light.  To do anything less would be a disservice to the patients and the workers at BHD.

Furthermore, their approach to the problem and their reasoning is also faulty.

For example, their complaint that department heads might not be willing to be forthcoming due to this is rubbish.  They should know better than anyone that Scott Walker’s department heads have a long history of not being cooperative with the Board, based on orders from Walker and his Chief of Staff, Tom Nardelli, who has already been caught issuing his own “no snitching” memo on another issue.

Likewise, any concerns over lawsuits would be misdirected as well.  If they are concerned about being sued for these sexual assaults, they should direct the focus of their concerns on the person responsible for putting them in this position, and not the person who pointed out the problems.

After all, it was Scott Walker who has habitually and chronically understaffed the mental health complex.  It was also Walker who had the opportunity to prevent many of these assaults by approving of a secure ward three years ago, but refused to do so.

If they want to censure anyone, they should be censuring Scott Walker for implementing policies and budgets that allowed these problems to continue, and who had installed a policy of obfuscation when it came to anything to do with the County Board.

If they want to take any action regarding Supervisor De Bruin, it should be to offer her thanks for calling this to attention and an apology for demonizing her.

Then they could introduce a resolution condemning and forbidding any “Stop Snitching” policy.


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