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Evers tries to weasel out of holding Chisholm accountable

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers has found a way to try to weasel out of dealing with a complaint asking him to fire Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm: He secretly hired a Madison attorney who proclaimed the complaint “insufficient.”

So instead of doing the politically uncomfortable work of investigating why Chisholm’s office helped free the man suspected of murdering and maiming dozens of people in Waukesha, the governor sicced a high-priced attorney from a Madison firm on the six citizens who filed the complaint.

The Milwaukee County residents filed the petition more than three weeks ago after Evers insisted he could not open an investigation into Chisholm’s conduct until he received a “verified” complaint. The citizens charged Chisholm with “dereliction” of his duties, in large part for his office’s low bail recommendation for the career violent criminal accused of mowing down scores of people with his SUV  in Waukesha’s Christmas parade. The complaint also cites other instances in which the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office cheaply helped set free violent criminals who went on to be charged with homicide.

Evers has since wavered on how he will proceed, at first asserting he would take the complaint “seriously” and then saying he’d prefer Milwaukee County voters decide what to do with Chisholm at the polls.

He has been mostly silent on the topic. That includes his failure to inform the public, let alone the Milwaukee County residents who filed the complaint, that he had hired an outside attorney to review the petition.

Evers’ office did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment seeking information on the contract, but Wispolitics reported that Evers retained Madison attorney Matthew Fleming on Dec. 23, at a cost of $275 an hour. The total bill was not immediately known Tuesday.

Fleming’s memo asserts the citizens’ petition “suffers from several flaws, both formal and substantive, that render it insufficient to invoke the power the petitioners demand Governor Evers to exercise.”

In some cases, it appears the attorney’s arguments rely on strict readings of the law. He notes the petitioners’ signature includes a notary verification under oath, as required by statute, but doesn’t include a “statement indicating that the petitioners attest to the truth or reliability of the statement.”

Fleming asserts the complaint does not properly present charges of neglect of duty, despite the fact it details the district attorney office’s role in the low bail that enabled another violent offender the freedom to claim innocent lives.

“While the Petition certainly describes events that can only be described as tragic, the Petition fails to set forth facts that establish those tragic events were the result of Mr. Chisholm having neglected any duty of his office,” the memo states.

It is well documented that Chisholm’s advocacy for and implementation of liberal policies over his 15 years in office have contributed to public safety failures. Chisholm even predicted his policies would hurt innocent people, a fact noted in the complaint.

So now Evers, who shares Chisholm’s liberal criminal justice philosophies, is off the hook. He gets a pass on making a tough political decision, while Chisholm avoids being held accountable again.

Criticism poured in from public officials who have demanded Evers remove Chisholm from office.

“Today, Tony Evers had the gall to suggest that there weren’t enough ‘facts’ to fire John Chisholm. Here are the facts: John Chisholm’s office allowed a decades-long violent criminal to walk free and kill six people in Waukesha, and Tony Evers is refusing to hold him accountable,” said Paul Farrow, Waukesha County executive and chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

“Tony Evers failed the community of Waukesha tonight, and families across Wisconsin will be extremely disappointed by his choice. Wisconsinites cannot count on him to keep them safe.”

Rebecca Kleefisch, Republican candidate for governor, called Evers a coward.

“John Chisholm’s leadership in the Milwaukee DA’s office is a danger to Wisconsin families, and he must be removed. How many lives have to be lost before Tony Evers stops making excuses?” The former lieutenant governor said.

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