The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Clarke extends executive powers

  • The Milwaukee County Sheriff is now in charge of hiring new managers at the House of Corrections.
  • County Board supervisors will still play a role, though not in a managerial way.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. will now have executive power over appointing new managers at the House of Corrections and County Correctional Facility South in Franklin. As a result, County Board supervisors would no longer have any say over the decisions.

The full board votes on the issue today. The vote will likely be a formality, as it strongly passed in both the Personnel Committee and Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee voted 6-0, and the Personnel Committee 6-1, to stop supervisors from confirming the facility superintendent. The lone district supervisor to oppose was John Weishan, Jr. of the 16th District.

Harold Mester, public information officer for the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, said the changes are merely procedural to take care of the transition.

"This was part of the 2009 budget that was approved in November," Mester said. "The County Board had already made a policy decision late last year to give it to the House of Corrections."

Supervisors will still have a role within the facility, although the confidence is high in the sheriff's day-to-day operations, Mester said.

"The sheriff is a constitutional officer, so he has great control over how it's run," Mester said.

"At some point in the future, if the board feels it isn't managed and administered properly, and if a majority agree, they could go back on it," he said. "But at this point in time, the board felt that they would rather transfer the control to the Sheriff for day-to-day operations of the House of Corrections."

Removing the authority follows-up last fall's decision to place the facility's administrative control completely under the sheriff. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker was a firm proponent of handing the job directly to Clarke.

"It made sense for the sheriff to take on this role," said Fran McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the county executive's office. "He had overseen the sheriff's deputies, but not the House of Corrections. It was consolidated under the sheriff's office, under his jurisdiction."

Kim Brooks, public information officer for the sheriff's office, said performance will determine how the facility runs if the full County Board decides to take the facility away from Clarke.

"If the County Board voted to place the House of Corrections back under the County Executive or a new management paradigm, the impact to the House would be based on the new management team's ability to perform and get results for the taxpayers of Milwaukee County," Brooks said.

Clarke has filled two of three managerial spots. Both Inspector Richard Schmidt and Capt. Kevin Nyklewicz currently work in the sheriff's office and have each had prior managerial experience within the prison system.

Schmidt, also a top overseer at the county jail, adds the Franklin facility to his duties. Nyklewicz runs daily management at the facility. Brooks said precautions were taken to ensure that improved results were not optional, but mandatory.

"Sheriff Clarke anticipated the issue before placing Inspector Schmidt over the transition project, and ultimately over both facilities," Brooks said.

"Inspector Schmidt has a leadership team at both facilities to assure that security is enhanced, not diminished."

Clarke appointed Deputy Inspector Esther Welch, a veteran of the sheriff's office command staff, as on-site leader of the jail.

Prior to the House's decision, the Franklin facility's security guards had been stressed and pushed to work beyond their norms. Appointing new managers to run the facility would allow greater flexibility of guards to work normal hours.

Reports from the facility indicated guards had many forced overtime costs and overtime shifts because of minimal staffing, but had radically declined since Clarke took over in January 2009, Brooks said.

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