Lead issues looming: Ex-health commissioner to appear before council committee

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee aldermen heard more about text messages and personal investigations centered around the Milwaukee Health Department and the ever-prevailing lead paint issue on Thursday, Sept. 13.

The Milwaukee Common Council's Steering and Rules Committee addressed two additional elements in this case.

Ashanti Hamilton

"The text messages that came out and also the personnel investigation reports," said Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.

Text messages between former Health Commissioner Bevan Baker and another staffer were recently made public, regarding fears of how messed up the department was becoming -- and keeping the scope of the problem from council members upset Milwaukee Alderman Mark Borkowski.

"You can't, you know, bury it for years or make a game of it by playing games with committee members," said Borkowski.

Bevan Baker

Baker resigned in January after an internal investigation into the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program revealed that between 2015 and the end of 2017, employees failed to keep records of whether families affected by lead poisoning ever received necessary follow-up services.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton announced Thursday Baker will appear before the committee at a later date.

"He has agreed to appear. We will do that in open session. At this stage, I think there is some understanding and I think that the public would like to hear that he would have a perspective on that no one else would be able to see from his angle," said Hamilton.

Hamilton said going into a closed session Thursday regarding Baker, the text messages and other personnel investigations was essential.

"It's important for us to be able to confer with the city attorney," said Hamilton.

Hamilton said a date for the special committee hearing with Baker has not been set yet. In the past, Baker has said he has done nothing wrong.