MILWAUKEE -- A weapon was found on a work site where American Sewer Services, contracted by the City of Milwaukee, was doing work near 35th and Center, according to a spokeswoman with the City of Milwaukee's Department of Public Works.
It happened when a DPW inspector was doing a routine check of the work being done at the site -- where lead service line replacement work was being done, and the firearm was spotted.
According to the DPW spokeswoman, city workers have been prohibited from carrying weapons while on the job -- but changes to city policies concerning contractors/sub-contractors and weapons are still being developed. American Sewer Services had updated their policies on this subject, and the owner took action to terminate the offending employee based on their company policy.
Dennis Biondich, the owner of American Sewer Services set a letter to all 15 Milwaukee Common Council members about this incident on Monday, Jan. 29:
I want to share with you some information that came to our attention late last week regarding one of our employees.
During an inspection by DPW staff, I was made aware that one of my employees was in possession of a concealed handgun while working on the job. In accordance with our newly adopted policy regarding the possession of guns while working on jobs in the City of Milwaukee, this employee was immediately terminated. Despite making it very clear to our employees that gun possession would not be tolerated, it's unfortunate that we continue to have some individuals who violate our policies. However, we are fortunate to now have a policy in place that addresses these incidents and can be used to protect both American Sewer Services and the City of Milwaukee against any potential legal action.
After meeting today with Commissioner Korban, I have informed him that I am withdrawing our recent winning bid on the latest lead replacement project. In not accepting this award, we will be forfeiting another approximately $500,000 contract. When combined with other recent actions taken by the Commissioner, this brings the total "fine" we've paid for these three incidents to nearly $1.5 million.
This morning we convened all of our employees prior to sending them out to their work sites to once again reiterate our new policies and procedures. It's my intention to also use the time we would have spent on the lead job to regroup and continue to train our employees on the proper way to conduct business in the City of Milwaukee in order to ensure we eliminate these incidents in the future.
Over the past 30 years I have developed a strong working relationship with Milwaukee. I will continue to do all I can to restore that bond.
American Sewer Services, Inc.
This was not the first controversy involving American Sewer Services, as you'll recall.
"I was surprised there was yet another incident, sure," Alderman Bob Donovan said.
"You've got to ask yourself -- you lost all that business earlier. You would have thought all of his employees would have been told, you know, 'don't put me in jeopardy again.' And it happened again literally a month later," Alderman Michael Murphy said.
Aldermen FOX6 News spoke with on this issue praised the company's self-policing, but many said they're upset the head of the company was a "no show" when the company was summoned to a meeting at City Hall.
FOX6's calls to the company weren't returned Tuesday.
The City of Milwaukee on Jan. 17 terminated one of its contracts with with the company after a lunch box adorned with Confederate flag and Ku Klux Klan stickers was spotted at one of their job sites near 25th and Wells.
The Common Council's Public Works Committee left the door open that there could be further action against American Sewer Services since they’re still investigating.
American Sewer Services also submitted the lowest bid for a project, and officials said that bid would be terminated, so the project would go to the next lowest bidder. American Sewer Services agreed to not contest these actions in any way.
Earlier, three gun-wielding American Sewer Services workers sparked a firestorm of debate after a picture surfaced showing them holding weapons near 19th and Meinecke -- and went viral.
The company responded by firing or laying off the workers involved in each of these incidents.