John Chisholm's Chickens Come Home To Roost


John Chisholm's Chickens Come Home To Roost

CREATED Sep. 29, 2012

"Irony": An incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected  result.

"No sense of irony": Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm claiming "The community's less safe" because of cuts to his staff.

One-time grants are to bureaucrats and politicians what crack cocaine is to addicts.  You take the money, spend it - and then crash hard when the money goes away.  Like a coke head, you then go chasing more money to get another fix.

Over the last couple of years, John Chisholm has hired over ten prosecutors with grant money that is now disappearing.  He is now hoping Governor Walker will provide the funding to help keep these prosecutors.  Yes, that's the same Governor Walker whose activities as Milwaukee County Executive have been the subject of the now almost two year old John Doe investigation.

I sympathize with Chisholm's problem.  It seems that he's going to lose some good prosecutors when the grant money runs out. Still, if he's got budget problems, maybe he should be examining some of the ways he's been spending money over the last two years.

Just how much has the seemingly never-ending John Doe investigation cost taxpayers?  How much attorney and investigator time has been used pursuing convoluted theories down dead ends?  At what point do you say that if you haven't found a chargeable crime after almost two years of investigation, it's time to shift resources and go after the real crime that's out there?

Don't get me wrong, I think public corruption investigations are important.  One of my biggest complaints about former Milwaukee county District Attorney E. Michael McCann was what I thought was a politically convenient "live and let live" approach to public corruption.  This, in my opinion, allowed public corruption to flourish in some quarters - and created a law enforcement void that was thankfully filled by former U.S. Attorney Steve Biscupic.

The problem with the current John Doe investigation is that it appears rudderless.  There have been some charges - and those cases are appropriately working their way through the courts. Prosecutors have already obtained one misdemeanor conviction against a Walker appointee for doing campaign work on County time and the conviction of a Walker donor for violations of campaign finance laws. My guess is that they will most likely secure a few more.

If anybody goes to jail out of this though, I doubt it will be for very long. Watergate this isn't!

At the same time, over the course of the last two years, you've had (in my opinion) some questionable and some downright bizarre actions by investigators. 

Again, after a two year investigation, sometimes all you see is all there is to see.

I think it's truly unfortunate that the DA's Office is losing prosecutors charged with putting violent criminals behind bars.  I sincerely hope that money can be found somewhere to keep these positions. If there was ever a justification for making an exception to "zero growth" budgeting, I think providing adequate resources to law enforcement would be it.

Don't forget though, this is the same John Chisholm who green lit the ill-considered prosecution of former County Supervisor Johnny Thomas.  Anybody think those resources couldn't have been better allocated?  Instead of chasing Johnny Thomas into a 90 minute acquittal, maybe the prosecutors could have gotten some real criminals off the street.

It's always risky to build a staff with grant money - and it seems that this is precisely what John Chisholm did.  Those chickens are now coming home to roost.

Which makes it all the more important that Chisholm allocates the rest of his resources appropriately.