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Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013

Issue of the Week: Abele Should Send His Parks Chief for Confirmation

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Milwaukee County has been without a permanent parks director since August 2012, when Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele abruptly fired Sue Black without ever giving her a reason for her termination. Black’s firing came as a shock, since she’d served the parks department so well during Scott Walker’s tight-fisted reign and Abele had just given her a hefty raise so that she’d stay put and not move on to Chicago.

Fast-forward one year and the county is still without a permanent parks director.

After a nationwide search, Abele hired John Dargle, who’d run the parks in Fairfax County, Va.

That was back in May.

It’s now September, and Dargle is still the “interim” parks director.

Supervisor Gerry Broderick, the head of the board’s parks committee, wrote a letter to Abele on Aug. 21 to find out when Dargle’s appointment would be sent to the board for confirmation. Broderick told the Shepherd that Abele responded on the phone that Dargle would be sent for confirmation in September.

But Abele’s spokesman wouldn’t commit to any date, writing in emails to the Shepherd that “his appointment will be sent to the board during the appropriate time frame” and that they didn’t want Dargle to get “caught up in some of the other actions the board took against other appointees this summer.”

Why the wait? Is Abele second-guessing his own decision?

Broderick and Supervisor Jason Haas, another parks committee member, said they welcomed Dargle’s confirmation hearing and felt that it should have been done this summer to provide stability for the department.

Dargle’s appointment has nothing to do with the firing of Kimberly Walker as corporation counsel; the board had lost confidence in her ability to provide sound legal advice to them and Abele without bias.

Abele has had heavy turnover in his administration, losing not only Sue Black, but also a number of close aides as well as Frank Busalacchi, who was actively recruited by Abele and who sold his home in Madison to move to Milwaukee to serve as Abele’s transportation chief. Like Sue Black, Frank Busalacchi was abruptly fired by Abele and, again, without any reason given for his termination.

Abele cannot leave Dargle and the parks department in limbo. If he’s questioning his own judgment in hiring Dargle, he needs to admit that and move on. But if he’s confident in his own hire, Abele needs to send Dargle to the board for confirmation as soon as possible.

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