Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 7, 2021
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — More than a dozen Waukesha-area lawmakers are calling on Gov. Tony Evers to use his executive power to remove Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm from office.
Evers has responded by not responding, dodging reporters’ questions.
The 14 Republican lawmakers, including Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), say it’s clear Chisholm has neglected his duties to the people Milwaukee County and the citizens of Wisconsin.
Chisholm, a Democrat, has faced mounting criticism for what the DA concedes was “inappropriately low” bail for Darrell Brooks, the suspect in the Waukesha Christmas parade massacre. Chisholm last week blamed “human error” for the $1,000 bail that Brooks, a felon with a long and violent rap sheet, paid just days before he is suspected of killing six people and injuring scores more in the Nov. 21 rampage.
“Chisholm has refused to step down after a flood of calls for his resignation. Because of this, we are calling on you to remove John Chisholm as Milwaukee County District Attorney,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “It is clear to us as legislators and many people from the Waukesha County and Milwaukee County areas affected by the recent tragedy that District Attorney Chisholm has neglected his duty in his office.”
Evers’ staff has said the governor can’t remove a district attorney without receiving a complaint from a Milwaukee County resident. As of Monday, no complaint had been filed by a county citizen, although attorney general candidate Adam Jarchow did hand-deliver a complaint to the governor’s office last week.
Should the governor receive a complaint, he could oust Chisholm, but only for cause — something like “neglect of duty” or “official misconduct” or “malfeasance in office.”
Chisholm’s failure to check his prosecutor’s ridiculously low bail request could fit all of the above. Brooks Jr. had recently been arrested on charges of punching a woman — the mother of his child — and then hitting her with the same SUV he allegedly used in his deadly drive through the Christmas parade.
Evers’ refused to answer a Fox6 reporter’s question on the call to fire Chisholm. He told the reporter that Brooks “should not have been out on bail,” but Evers’ handlers wouldn’t allow a follow-up question. The governor then walked away.
State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), one of the signers of the letter, said the governor doesn’t want to answer the question.
“He’s just as guilty as Chisholm when it comes to not holding people accountable,” Sanfelippo said, pointing to Evers’ Department of Corrections’ failure to check parole and probation violations. Evers campaigned on a promise to cut the state’s prison population in half.
The governor told Wisconsin Public Radio last week that he’s working with Chisholm’s office on the DA’s internal investigation into Brooks’ release.
“We are looking forward to the conclusion to the investigation,” Evers said.
That raises several questions. Why is the governor working on a district attorney’s internal investigation? Why would the governor or his office get involved in such an investigation, and how? Didn’t Chisholm’s internal investigation end last Thursday, when he detailed the breakdown of the bail recommendation process?
Evers’ office did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment.
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