Aldermen send letter to city attorney, question appointment of Paul Nannis as health commissioner

Paul Nannis

MILWAUKEE — A group of Milwaukee aldermen is questioning the appointment of Paul Nannis as commissioner of health in the City of Milwaukee.

They’re concerned because Nannis hasn’t been confirmed by the Milwaukee Common Council, but he’s reported to work.

In a letter written to City Attorney Grant Langley, the group questions whether Nannis poses a liability risk because he’s a private citizen with access to health information.

The letter is signed by eight aldermen, including Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett chose Nannis to lead the Milwaukee Health Department for 120 days following the resignation of Bevan Baker over Milwaukee’s lead testing controversy.

President Ashanti Hamilton, Alderman Bob Donovan, Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II, Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, Alderman Mark A. Borkowski, Alderman José G. Pérez, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, and Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs all signed the below letter:

“January 29, 2018

Mr. Grant Langley

City Attorney

City Hall

Dear Mr. Langley,

With the Public Safety and Health Committee’s decision last week to recommend against the confirmation of Mr. Paul Nannis as Commissioner of the Milwaukee Health Department, a number of questions occurred to us regarding Mr. Nannis’ status within City government. It is certain that he cannot serve as commissioner without Common Council confirmation and he testified to the committee that he is not even on the City payroll. This leads us to believe that he has not received either an exempt or a regular appointment to any City position.

If the foregoing be true, as we believe it is, we would ask the following:

1. Is it consistent with applicable laws and regulations that Mr. Nannis receive access to City facilities otherwise secured from the general public?
2. What authority, if any, does he have to hold meetings with City staff — as he apparently has done?
3. Should Mr. Nannis have the e-mail address that he has apparently received?
4. On the assumption that he is assisting in the investigation of the failure of the Milwaukee Health Department to properly manage aspects of its lead abatement program, should he have access to employee e-mails, personnel documents, and other records?
5. Should Mr. Nannis have any access to the records kept by the Milwaukee Health Department relating to those affected by the lead abatement program? We would think that some of these records would be medical records governed by the Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act?
6. If the answer to question #5 above is “no”, what liability might the City have for disclosing information governed by the HIPAA to Mr. Nannis?

As Mr. Nannis is on the job as of this writing, we would hope you would understand our request that these questions be answered as promptly as is possible.”