By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — While he hides from questions about the “Chisholm situation,” if pressed Gov. Tony Evers could make life rough for any Milwaukee County resident who brings a complaint seeking Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s removal from office.
Evers has a great deal of discretion in the process, and legislative sources tell Empower Wisconsin the highly partisan governor could be punitive in his quest to protect a powerful Democrat in Wisconsin’s most populous county. A county, teeming with Democrats, that Evers must win by huge numbers next November if he has any chance at a second term.
Milwaukee-area Republicans this week sent the governor a letter urging him to “immediately” fire Chisholm. The liberal DA has been widely criticized for his office’s recommendation of a paltry $1,000 bail for Darrell Brooks Jr., the career violent criminal accused of killing six people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring scores more with his SUV during Waukesha’s annual Christmas parade last month.
Brooks had been arrested just three weeks before on charges of felony second-degree recklessly endangering safety and bail jumping. He is accused of assaulting the mother of his child and then driving over her with the same SUV he allegedly drove through the parade.
Chisholm blamed what he himself described as “inappropriately low” bail on a human error in an overwhelmed criminal justice system. But the prosecutor long ago, in his first days as Milwaukee County DA, predicted the kind of progressive justice policies he championed would end up killing innocent people.
Evers’ office has said the governor can’t act until he receives a verified complaint from a taxpaying citizen of Milwaukee County.
As of Tuesday, no such complaint had been filed. Perhaps that’s because the process could prove costly for anyone who seeks Chisholm’s removal, a fact that certainly isn’t lost on a politically vindictive liberal governor who is loathe to punish incompetent or corrupt Democrats.
The complaint would have to include a sworn affidavit, generally authorized by a notary public. So any statement determined to be false could lead to perjury charges. A complainant would have to post a $1,000 bond up front. It would be “conditioned for the payment of all costs and expenses actually incurred by the state,” according to the law.
Should Evers determine the complaint is frivolous, the complainant could be compelled to pay for the full cost of the investigation into Chisholm’s conduct. According to statute, if the governor finds the complaint was “wilful and malicious and without probable cause,” the expenses fall on the complainant and “the charges may be collected in an action against the person or on the bond furnished by the person.”
While Chisholm’s failure to protect society from a violent offender certainly seems like probable cause for termination, it’s all up to Chisholm’s “progressive justice” pal Tony Evers.
“He has sole discretion,” a legislative source told Empower Wisconsin. “It could get as partisan and as politically nasty as he so chooses.”
Evers has shown himself to be plenty partisan and politically nasty over his nearly three years as governor. He’s also shown a stubborn refusal to punish fellow Democrats who have behaved badly or performed poorly. It took him six disastrous months to fire former Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman, who led arguably one of the most dysfunctional state agencies in Wisconsin history. Evers refused to identify the staff member who secretly and illegally recorded Republican legislative leaders during a meeting on the state’s response to the pandemic.
But if no one steps up, there is little chance Chisholm will be held accountable.
“That’s where we need a courageous person (a Milwaukee County resident) to take on this fight and stand up for the victims of John Chisholm,” a legislative source told Empower Wisconsin.