Four county supervisors seek to oust new chairwoman, as state looks at radically altering county board

May 7, 2013
County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic

County Board Chair
Marina Dimitrijevic

“The people of Milwaukee County do not want political stunts; they want elected officials to represent their best interests. Right now we should be focusing on serious issues that matter to people, such as funding to sustain our transit system. This is the time to come together as we reform Milwaukee County. People are tired of divisive politics,” Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said in a statement released by her on Monday, April 29, 2013.
This was in response to four Milwaukee County Board members — three conservatives and one liberal — circulating a memo on Friday, April 26, 2013 asking other supervisors to join them in their long-shot attempt to dump Chairwoman Dimitrijevic as their leader.
The memo asks supervisors for their support in asking Dimitrijevic to step down as chairwoman “after a series of political blunders.” If that is unsuccessful, the foursome — Supervisors Mark Borkowski, Steve Taylor, Deanna Alexander and John Weishan — said they want to begin the process for removing the first-term board leader.
Supervisors were given until noon Monday to join the attempted coup.
Supporters of the chairwoman on the County Board came to her defense after the memo leaked to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s ‘No Quarter’ blog.
“I have no interest in this move to attack the Chairwoman,” Supervisor Theo Lipscomb said, praising her leadership.
Even some of the dissidents conceded that the effort to oust Dimitrijevic is likely to fail.
“Under the current environment, it’s probably highly unlikely you’ll get a majority of the board willing to do this,” Taylor said. “However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t the right thing to do at this time.”
Dimitrijevic has come under fire from Republican legislators and some of her colleagues for her evasive answers on suggestions that the board directed a county labor official to negotiate with a decertified union.
Records obtained by No Quarter show an official with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 48 referred to the meetings with Fred Bau, the county’s labor relations director, as negotiating sessions. Bau even offered a contract proposal to District 48, and a top committee with the union had scheduled a debate on the offer.
But Dimitrijevic has maintained that the meetings were never more than talks and listening sessions.
This debate has gone on while lawmakers in Madison are considering legislation that would chop the $50,000-per-year salaries for County Board members by more than half if Milwaukee County voters approve a binding referendum in 2014. The measure has been tentatively approved in the Assembly.
Despite the criticism, Dimitrijevic demonstrated her political strength on the County Board by pushing through her own reform proposal last week.
By a 15-3 vote, the board approved Dimitrijevic’s plan, which would cut supervisors’ pay 20 percent, shed half the board’s staff and require supervisors to attend training sessions on their proper role. The measure also would seek state approval to reduce supervisor terms from four years to two.
Voting against the plan were Alexander, Taylor and Weishan — three of the four pushing for Dimitrijevic’s ouster.