December 17, 2019 PRESS RELEASE
The Milwaukee Police Association calls for Milwaukee Fire & Police Commissioner (FPC) Steven DeVougas to resign his position, or be removed, immediately, and an investigation to be conducted into his conduct.
On August 14, 2019, Attorney Steven DeVougas, a current member of the FPC, represented Kalan R. Haywood in a criminal investigative interview at the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD). Haywood was interviewed by an MPD detective as a suspect in a sexual assault complaint.
Attorney DeVougas CANNOT represent anybody in a criminal matter when the investigating agency is the same agency he oversees as a commissioner. This is a violation of the State Bar’s ethics as well as a violation of FPC rules.
How can the MPD detective, or any supervisor overseeing that investigation, not feel intimidated by DeVougas when he literally has the power/influence to discipline them, including termination? Mr. Devougas is an attorney and knows the rules, yet failed to follow them, causing a significant appearance of impropriety, to say the least.
The Kalan Haywood that DeVougas represented is the same Haywood, who according to CCAP, was found guilty of a felony drug crime (case #1996CF961513), has been sued at least four (4) times by the City of Milwaukee, and yet somehow managed to recently get the City of Milwaukee to loan him $9 million dollars for a real estate development project.
And let us ask why Attorney DeVougas, a self-described real estate, transactional business law, and business litigation attorney, who doesn’t list any criminal defense work on his business website, represented a city-connected businessman with a shady history in a serious criminal sexual assault allegation in the first place. To the average Joe, the optics of the situation look as though DeVougas represented Haywood because DeVougas knew that his mere presence as the representing attorney would improperly influence the investigation by intimidating the very investigators that he has authority over. This is unacceptable behavior from an attorney/FPC commissioner and this alone warrants his removal.
I’ve spoken to a reliable source who stated that DeVougas and Commissioner Cocroft went on WNOV radio yesterday morning. My source personally listened to the radio show and verified that these two commissioners discussed quite a bit of FPC business and provided me specific details of the discussion, which constituted a clear violation of the state’s open meetings laws. FPC commissioners are quite familiar with the open meetings laws and MUST abide by them, yet chose to disregard them.
Both DeVougas and Cocroft sit on several FPC committees together and their formation of two commissioners creates a negative quorum, thereby prohibiting them from discussing FPC business in that forum. Again, that is a blatant violation of the law and it needs to be investigated immediately.
If we recall about a year ago in Mequon, their commission was plagued by similar conduct by commissioners who were also in violation of the state’s open meetings laws. What was the result? Three of their commissioners stepped down. Clearly, there is precedent on such conduct and if substantiated, the same needs to occur in this case to reestablish the credibility of the Milwaukee Fire & Police Commission. To do nothing would suggest that the commission can sit in judgment of others, but shall not be judged themselves for their illegal conduct and rule violations. That would be unacceptable!
DeVougas stated to the Journal Sentinel a few days ago that back when Chief Flynn was given his third term, “…they (FPC) rushed it (contract) through.” Well, YOU were part of the commission back then that “rushed” it through, Mr. DeVougas. You stated that back then the commission was “kept in the dark” and you weren’t given all your options.
Wait…so you’re saying that either you were lied to by commissioners or others, information was intentionally withheld from you by commissioners or others, or that you were so naïve or incompetent that you didn’t ask the appropriate questions or have enough information to cast an educated vote? Please advise everybody in Milwaukee who entrusted you to be thorough and ethical in having a vote in appointing one of the city’s most critical leadership positions, the city’s police chief, and let us know which one of these occurred. Obviously, this is a matter of great public concern and your admittance cannot and should not be glossed over.
Any way you look at it, your stunning admittance of potential impropriety is of great concern and immediately calls into question your position on the commission, as well as potentially the others on the commission who voted on Flynn’s third contract. If you were truly “kept in the dark”, then we should have an investigation into why that was, so as to root out all the dysfunction and possible impropriety that has plagued the FPC for quite some time now. After a statement like that Mr. DeVougas, how is the community now supposed to have faith in the competence of the Commission with you on it?
Recently, DeVougas stated that he is now in no rush to renew MPD Chief Morales’ contract for four more years, despite this topic having been a major community concern for many months and knowing that the Chief’s contract is up in just a few weeks. Then, DeVougas stated that, “If a contract expires and he (Chief Morales) wants to do something else, then it falls to the next person in line.” What line Mr. DeVougas? A lunch line? A grocery store line? We are talking about appointing a person as Chief of Police in one of the most dangerous cities in this country, as well as needing a Chief to plan and be prepared for an upcoming major national event in the DNC, and you nonchalantly say “…it falls to the next person in line”? That’s ridiculous, unprofessional, irresponsible, and embarrassing to the FPC, Milwaukee, and its citizens.
Clearly, Mr. DeVougas doesn’t take his duty to appoint the right person as the Milwaukee Police Chief very seriously, with the attitude that he has shown. He acts as if just anybody in “line” can do the job and it doesn’t really matter. Mr. DeVougas, you do know the DNC is coming to town in a few short months and whomever is the Chief of Police will be responsible for the safety of hundreds of thousands of people from in and out of town, right? Do you think the out-of-towners want you to care who the Chief of Police is, for their own safety? You better believe they do!
In my opinion, pushing off Chief Morales’ vote on his contract is a political sham on your part and failing to address the Chief’s contract after all this time is a derelict of your duties. You don’t appear to have any legitimate reason for pushing off the vote on the Chief’s contract, but you have, however, clearly shown a LACK of transparency and a clear bias against the Chief by playing these games and disrespecting him. Basically saying that if Chief Morales wants to leave when his contract expires, that any Joe Schmo in “line” can do the job next is utterly ridiculous!
You have shown you political cards, Mr. DeVougas, and you clearly don’t understand the gravity of your responsibilities at the FPC. Conduct like yours can result in devastating consequences for the citizens and visitors in this community and you do not belong on the commission. You have lost your credibility and integrity and you should resign or be removed, immediately.
The MPA requests a formal investigation into Mr. DeVougas’ conduct, demands his resignation/removal from his position, and then, and only then, can the FPC begin to heal from such misconduct and start to restore its integrity moving forward.
Shawn C. Lauda President Milwaukee Police Association