Common Council urges citizens, workers to report abuses in city; “If you see something, please say something”

MILWAUKEE -- If you see something, say something. That is the message from the Milwaukee Common Council after it was revealed this week the Milwaukee Health Department prohibited employees from communicating with officials about mismanagement of the lead prevention program and other concerns.

Milwaukee Common Council members are reminding both city employees and the public about the protections in place for people who wish to report city issues without the risk of retaliation.

"If there's abuses going on, we want to know. And you can do this anonymously," said Ald. Michael Murphy.

Murphy said whistle blowers can consider using the following resources to report concerns:

"The Comptroller, who is our main auditor, will then take that report and bring it the attention to council members or in other cases maybe district attorney or city attorney," Murphy said.

On Wednesday, Health Department representatives revealed they are prohibited from contacting or replying to elected officials about program concerns.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

On Thursday, Feb. 1, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett rescinded a policy at the Milwaukee Health Department that prohibited employees from communicating with elected officials.  The Common Council plans to vote on a resolution next week that would ban these communication restrictions across all departments.

"It appears at least so far, that it's only been with Milwaukee Health Department under Bevan Baker," Murphy said.

Alderwoman Milele Coggs issued a statement saying the practice has fostered a "culture of 'see nothing, say nothing' and likely played a role in the Health Department's failure to keep track of whether or not thousands of children who were exposed to lead ever received follow-up services.

"If this doesn't teach us that we need to have transperency, we need to communicate with each, and we need to make sure that the people are being served, than I don't know what does," Coggs said.

Bevan Baker resigned as Health Commissioner last month when news of the mismanaged lead program first came out. So far, he has not been questioned about the policy. He could eventually be subpoenaed to testify.