Friday, Aug. 24, 2012

Johnny Thomas Acquitted; Pat Farley Must Resign

By Lisa Kaiser
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After deliberating for an hour, a jury acquitted former Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas of felony bribery and misconduct in office. (I've written about the case here and here.)

Just an hour of deliberations. Let that sink in for a moment.

Thomas's lightning-fast acquittal was stunning and the juror who spoke on the record, Rebekah Turner, said she felt that Thomas was set up and that she hoped Thomas would run for office again because she'd vote for him.

She's absolutely right.

I'll write in more detail about the trial and why the jury made its swift conclusion, but for now I'll just say: Department of Administrative Services chief Patrick Farley must resign.

During days of under-oath testimony it was shown that Farley didn't know what he was doing. And quite possibly set up Thomas to cover up for his own shortcomings.

Farley was only on the job for a few months when he went to the district attorney about his “concerns” about the delay in getting the Public Financial Management financial advisor contract on the agenda in Thomas's committee.

Farley went to the DA instead of speaking with Thomas directly. He went to the DA instead of pushing the contract during monthly agenda-setting meetings. He went to the DA instead of ensuring that his subordinate, Pam Bryant, provided the committee with the information on bonding that Thomas and vice chair Lynne De Bruin had requested. He went to the DA instead of doing the multiple things that he could have done to get that financial contract on the agenda in Thomas's committee.

He went to the DA instead of checking in with PFM to find out if Thomas was trying to shake them down for money. (Thomas wasn't, by the way.)

Isn't that shocking?

Farley testified that he thought Thomas's concerns about the way the county issues bonds (the information requested by Thomas and De Bruin) weren't “legitimate.”

Therefore, Farley concluded that Thomas wanted to be bribed.

Let that sink in, again. It's quite a leap to get from A to B. But in Farley's mind it made perfect sense.

Farley never spoke to Thomas about the PFM contract prior to going to the DA and agreeing to wear a wire and provide Thomas with an “opportunity” to ask for a bribe. The problem is, though, that Thomas never asked for money. Farley is the one who offered it.

Yet the DA's office alleged that Thomas was on the take.

So what happens next?

Thomas is completely exonerated. But that doesn't mean that he can pick up where he left off and continue campaigning for city comptroller.

He can't sue the county for what they put him through. But hopefully he will come out stronger than ever. I wish him and his family the best.

And Farley? What happens to him?

I just got off the phone with Brendan Conway, Abele's spokesman. He said that Abele would not fire Farley and that he hasn't asked for Farley's resignation. Farley hasn't turned in his resignation, either.

He should.

There's no way that Farley can act as head of the Department of Administrative Services any longer.

His testimony on the witness stand was so damning.

Not only did he not have a handle on the workings of his own agency, but he deliberately lied to and manipulated Thomas. He admitted doing so “because he was under the direction of the district attorney's office.”

I wonder: how will anyone take Farley at face value ever again? How will anyone ever have a conversation with him and trust him at his word? How will they know that he's not deliberately lying and manipulating them and setting them up for a fall?

There's no way it can be done.

For the good of Milwaukee County, Farley must leave office.

Farley's also got problems outside of his county duties. As it came out during trial, Farley is quite active in campaigning. He's a known fundraiser.

So which candidate is going to be dumb enough to take a contribution from Farley when he deliberately attempted to bribe an innocent man?

Farley even admitted on the stand that there's no way that he would have advised Thomas the same way he would advise a friend or client because because he was lying to Thomas.

Farley's credibility is shot. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. And yet Conway said that what Farley did was “an admirable thing” and he should be able to keep his job. Right.

Lastly, about the DA. I'm not an attorney, but this case was flimsy at best. It should not have gone to trial. Even juror Turner said she wondered why this case was launched and why the DA was wasting taxpayers' money.

DA John Chisholm said, after the verdict, that he had no regrets.

He may not, but does he have regrets about the damage this case has done to Thomas—an innocent man?

Let that sink in for a moment.



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