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Cover Up At BHD

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 6, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

It is being reported that there is a cover up going on at the mental health complex, in which the expensive private attorney and the head of Corporation Counsel is refusing to release the report of a consultant who did a study of safety issues at BHD in 2008:

Lawyers for Milwaukee County have refused to turn over a 2008 consultant’s report on safety issues at the Mental Health Complex – the first time in 30 years that county officials have stonewalled a county auditor investigation, the current auditor said Thursday.

Jerry Heer said he was seeking the report as part of his probe of safety issues at the complex. That audit was ordered by County Board Chairman Lee Holloway in April, following Journal Sentinel coverage of a federal inspection of the complex that found multiple instances of patient sexual assault and the pregnancy of a patient.

Heer told county supervisors Thursday “we believe that the report may shed light on the Behavioral Health Division’s practices that are relevant to the audit we are conducting.” He did not give the name of the consultant, but said he learned of the report’s existence during the course of his work on the mental health audit.

Heer said it was important to get any information that might help the county to reform its patient care practices in the future. He said he still holds out some hope the consultant report eventually will be released to county supervisors “so stepscan be taken to ensure any problems have been addressed.”

He said he would write his audit report without the information and that it would likely be released in about two weeks.

The decision to withhold the consultant report was made by Timothy Schoewe, the county’s acting corporation counsel, and Mark Cameli, a private lawyer hired by the county in 2007 during a criminal investigation of the August 2006 death of Cindy Anczak. She died from complications of starvation shortly after her discharge from the Mental Health Complex.

Supervisor Lynne De Bruin, who was wrongly censured for bringing all of this to light, hit it on the head in her response to this refusal to release this information:

Supervisor Lynne De Bruin was critical of the county lawyers’ refusal to turn over records to Heer.

“What this tells me is they have something to hide that is so egregious that they don’t even want to show an auditor,” De Bruin said. She called it an expansion of a disturbing trend of secrecy in county government.

“It’s totally inappropriate and I would hope the Behavioral Health Division would reverse its decision,” she said. She said Heer had an exemplary record and could be trusted to protect confidential material in the consultant report.

Heer said the report on the division was denied by the lawyers, not division administrators. County lawyers told him the report was subject to attorney-client confidentiality and that as auditor he wasn’t the client, Heer said.

De Bruin called that a legal dodge. Heer represents the county, she said, and county taxpayers paid for the report.

This is yet another shameful example of Scott Walker putting his political aspirations before the public good.  In a time when the County is taking steps to bring more transparency to government, we suddenly find Walker’s administration closing the door and refusing to allow other branches of the County, much less the tax payers, to see what is actually going on.

This can not be tolerated and Walker needs to release that information immediately.  This playing politics with our safety as well as the safety our vulnerable adults has gone on for too long and needs to stop.


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