PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

No Snitching Policy Stalls

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on December 10, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Earlier in the year, Supervisor Lynne De Bruin made it known that there were serious issues going on at the mental health complex, including the philosophy that putting vulnerable female patients in harm’s way was an “acceptable trade off” for a smaller number of other sorts of physical attacks on patients and staff.  For her trouble, the majority of her colleagues on the County Board decided to censure her.

This is still a move we disagree with.  If anything, Supervisor De Bruin deserves to be commended for her whistle-blowing.

To further close off Milwaukee County government from any sunshine reaching the Board, some of the more conservative members came up with a no snitching policy to punish anyone who reveals what is discussed in a closed doors session.

This past week, the Board’s judiciary committee voted to again delay action on this resolutions.  Opinions on it were strong on both sides:

Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo said the sanctions were important so county employees don’t fear speaking freely in open session might later get them in trouble.

Supervisor Christopher Larson called the propsed punishment “a solution looking for a problem.”

“It’s trying to muzzle supervisors to stop them from being able to discuss things that happen in closed session,” he said.

The Board should consider the old folk’s saying that that goes “If you’re not sure something is a good idea, it probably isn’t.”  This resolution has been bounced from committee to the whole board and back to committee, with one delay after another.

The reason for this delay is simply that it is a bad idea.  If it was not for the selfless courage of Supervisor De Bruin, it is not know when, or even if, the public would have been aware of the atrocities occurring at the mental health complex.  If this rule was in place when these issues were made known to the Board, and it was kept hushed, as people like Joe Sanfelippo are pushing for, they would be guilty of enabling and tacitly approving of such wrong-doings.

Another issue regarding this is the self-serving nature of the proposed resolution:

The County Board’s judiciary committee voted 3-2 Thursday to put off action until January on a proposal to allow $1,000 fines or firings of county employees who improperly spill the beans.

Elected officials would be subject only to the fines.

In other words, if a staff person is present for a closed door session, and one or more of the supervisors start to discuss or chose to do something that is illegal and/or unethical, the employee could risk his or her job by bringing it to the public’s attention.  It is  hard to believe that this wouldn’t be found illegal, considering the fact that the state has recently adopted a law protecting whistle-blowers.

In a time when trust in government is at an all-time low and the demand for accountability is at an all-time high, this is absolutely the wrong move for the Board to make.

We deserve better from our elected leaders than self-serving secrecy.


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