In 2008, Sheriff David Clarke decided that changing the name of the Sheriff’s Department to the Sheriff’s Office and changing the badge that deputies wear from a seven-pointer to a five-pointer (to match a tattoo supposedly just wasn’t enough. He ordered that the deputies start wearing a black and grey uniform instead of the traditional brown and tan.
Despite the fact that the contract between the deputies’ union and the Sheriff’s Department calls for Milwaukee County to pay for the uniforms, which is standard for most jobs that requires special equipment or clothing like that, Clarke tried to push the cost onto the deputies. This cost can run from $600 to $800.
The unions grieved it and took it to arbitration. The ruling was in the union’s favor. Now Clarke has decided he is going to appeal this ruling.
While the appeal is pending, the deputies are required to still buy the uniforms out of their own pocket by February 11th or face being suspended without pay and other discipline.
This could prove to be a hardship on the deputies, since they, like other county workers, were forced to take furlough days. And I doubt that will install much in the way of morale or discipline.
In these hard economic times, such vainglorious expenditures are the last thing that Milwaukee County or its tax payers need. There was no need to make all of these trivial changes except that Clarke wanted to put his mark on the Department.
Now, not only are the tax payers stuck with the bill for changing all of the signage, the stationary, etc., from Sheriff’s Department to Sheriff’s Office and the new badges and the new uniforms, but now we are going to have to pay for his legal spitting contest with the unions.
And given the recent ruling by Appellate Court Judge Ralph Adam Fine, in which he ruled that, per the contract signed by both the unions and the county, the arbitrator’s decision is the final authority, unless it can be proven that something illegal was done by said arbitrator, the chances for Clarke to succeed in his appeal is slim to none. The ruling by Judge Fine stemmed from the fighting match between AFSCME and then County Executive Scott Walker regarding Walker’s unilateral decision to enforce reduced work hours on certain union members.
Surely, Sheriff Clarke could have found much better uses for all of this squandered money, such as cutting down on the overtime or putting a few more patrols on the freeways.
And people wonder why there is a fiscal crisis in Milwaukee County. These frivolous expenses do nothing to help the matter.