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Questions over whether County Board Committee is breaking the law

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- There are questions as to whether a Milwaukee County Board Committee is breaking the law. That is the concern of a Milwaukee County Supervisor, and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

"I am concerned the County Board could be violating the law," County Board Supervisor Deanna Alexander said.

Alexander is a member of the County Board's Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee which has the exclusive ability to authorize the labor negotiations on behalf of the County.

In late March, County Executive Abele reached out to supervisors, with concerns that the Committee was negotiating a contract with AFSCME. AFSCME, which represented County workers, failed to re-certify after Act 10, so negotiating with them could be against the law.

Alexander shared Abele's concern.

"I've been warned, in a rather abrasive manner, that I'm under essentially an internal County Board gag order in addition to being silenced by closed-session meeting laws," Alexander said.

Alexander says she felt somewhat threatened about discussing what happened in the Committee's closed-door meeting. As it turned out, there was reason for concern.

Abele said in his email to supervisors: "I received a clarifying legal opinion from corporation counsel that further underscores the risk to the County if the Department of Labor Relations proceeds as directed."

"Call me old fashioned, but I don't think we should be doing things that are illegal," County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said.

Dimitrijevic downplayed the alleged gag order.

"Was anyone asked not to disclose what happens in those meetings? That's why we go into closed session for negotiating or looking at those issues. I think the advice we received from Corporation Counsel is Attorney-Client privilege. So I'll take that advice, and we'll make the best decisions we can," Dimitrijevic said.