MILWAUKEE — A FOX6 News investigation sheds new light on the controversial firing of Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black.
Earlier in August, County Executive Chris Abele fired Black, but refused to explain why. Now, FOX6 News has obtained government emails that show what was happening in the days leading up to Black’s termination. It shows the role that a development at Crystal Ridge Ski Hill in Franklin may have played.
It was Sue Black who brokered a deal to lease Crystal Ridge to a Franklin developer who wants to build a $3 million sports complex on the site.
“I did have concerns with the Crystal Ridge deal process, absolutely,” Abele said on Thursday.
In July, the County Board agreed to a 15-year lease for $25,000 a year. But the Board authorized Abele to make changes to that deal. In mid-August, Abele tried to make changes.
An email sent by Abele’s chief of staff to Black and other Parks staffers shows Abele was concerned the lease was too long and put taxpayers at risk. Abele believed the developer should kick in more money for an endowment fund.
The next day, Black’s staff informed Abele that the developer “feels very strongly the terms should remain the same” and that “changing the terms now…would be a non-starter.”
Abele’s request for changes to the lease was sent on August 14th. The parks staff’s reply was August 15th. The very next day, August 16th, news broke that Black had been fired.
“Can you say if this was a factor, though?” asked FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn.
“Um… you know, I think we got to a deal we feel comfortable with. We made some tweaks along the way,” Abele said.
“But did it influence your decision in firing Sue Black?” asked Polcyn.
“I think I`d rather just comment on things going forward,” Abele said.
The County Executive says they eventually did end up with lease terms that he’s satisfied are good for taxpayers.
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