Sunday, June 23, 2024
Sunday, June 23, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer Trashes His Harassment Accusers


“Buckle up because this is just beginning.” – Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer

Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer trashed the employees who have accused him of harassment on talk radio Monday, accusing them of “crying wolf” and “conspiring” against him, implying several times that he was being targeted because he’s black and ousted a long-term incumbent.

“So often do we see now people blowing the whistle, saying that someone is raping them, robbing them, etc., and mainly minorities, and only to find out someone is crying wolf to get the police out to kill them,” said Spencer, a close ally of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee). “I think we need to have something in place when we find that individuals blew that whistle falsely, they should be held accountable for that instead of tarnishing someone’s reputation and character.”

Spencer added, “Buckle up because this is just beginning.”

Radio host Sherwin Hughes asked, “So why can’t you just fire everybody?” Rather than pledging not to retaliate against the accusers, Spencer replied, “unfortunately, not. They have civil service protection.” He added that he was told he could pick his own deputy city attorneys, though, but claimed the city “hindered and stifled me” from doing so.

Harassment – and retaliation – are banned by the city’s anti-harassment policy, but the city investigators found that, as an elected official, Spencer isn’t bound by it.

Hughes raised the fact that Spencer is Milwaukee’s first black city attorney; Spencer responded, “I knew it was coming…It’s not the first time they accused an African-American elected official of impropriety with females or the like. That’s right out of the playbook. Attorneys in the office think they can cry wolf.”

Spencer, who claimed he’s the one working in a “hostile environment” despite the numerous claims against him, also lied on the radio that he was “exonerated” of “any wrongdoing.” In fact, the city’s report did not make a conclusion on the harassment allegations, saying that the city’s anti-harassment policy did not cover Spencer because he is an elected official. It also alleges of Spencer, “Some comments he admitted making, some were made to lighten the meeting/conversation with humor, and some comments or actions he did not recall.”

Some aldermen are trying to change it so elected officials fall under the city anti harassment policy, although we’ve previously reported they already have the power to remove Spencer for cause under state law, were they so inclined. The report did find, in a separate conclusion, that investigators did not find that “adverse employment actions were taken because of gender.”

The December 2020 report, which we received via an open records request from the city, says: “At least six (6) employees have individually complained about Mr. Spencer, and there are several others who have witnessed the behavior. Among such concerns are several incidents of potentially offensive/discriminatory verbal comments and behavior, as well as one incident of unwelcome physical contact with a female colleague.” The complaint said: “One female employee reported that she was physically touched on her body by Mr. Spencer.” Read the report and details on the accusations here.

The report says: “Several employees expressed a strong fear of retaliation, even though the employees have Civil Service job protection.” It adds, “The person with the most power in this situation, City Attorney Mr. Tearman Spencer, needs to understand the role he plays, and the culpability belonging to him in key City Attorney office changes as well as in the potential costs to the city.”

Hughes has a show on 101.7 the Truth, a new radio station targeting black listeners. Hughes is a former Jim Doyle appointee who has worked for Tom Barrett, John Kerry, and Lena Taylor.

Spencer, who has been city attorney for a year after ousting long-time respected incumbent Grant Langley, stressed he was “deeply disappointed” that the city released the harassment investigative report against him to the public, while also claiming his office is transparent in the same interview.

Hughes declared himself “a little disturbed” by the news coverage, telling his listeners that the accusations were “alleged by a colleague in the office that there was some harassment going on.”

The Tearman Spencer Harassment Accusers

According to the report, there are multiple accusers, and at least one of the incidents was witnessed by two other lawyers. They didn’t file filed a formal complaint because they feared retaliation, but the investigation included interviews with 19 people.

Spencer cast the harassment claims as part of a widespread conspiracy against him by 16 people in his office and some aldermen who “didn’t want the change” and were “attached” and loyal to Langley, the incumbent he ousted a year ago.

What changes has he sought? The Milwaukee Police Association’s leader has expressed grave concern that Spencer is too quick to settle and admit wrongdoing in cases involving police officers, potentially wrecking their careers and costing taxpayers millions of dollars (including in a case where the man shot had a gun and the officer was acquitted). Police don’t believe that Spencer is acting as their attorney, which is partly his role.

Spencer promised to “always make judgment on the side of righteousness” and said he was “trying to be more inclusive.”

He claimed that “folks not wanting that change, they had to get together and figure out a way to disrupt that,” claiming he was the one who faced a “hostile environment.”

He said that subordinates were immediately “disrespectful, disgruntled” and that he knew “something was coming down five or six weeks in. Sixteen or so odd attorneys in the office were going to come together and do this with just what you see right now,” he said.

He said he took precautions not to meet with people one by one.

He said that a male attorney named in the report and “a group of others conspired and colluded” into “how they’re going to get me out of there. That’s the key.”

Hughes told Spencer, “You subjected yourself to an investigation which I didn’t even think was warranted in the first place” and questioned why personnel records were released, to which Spencer declared himself “deeply disappointed” by the release.

“Now that they set the tone, they opened the floodgates” on releasing personnel information, Spencer claimed.

He did say, “Everyone deserves not to be harassed. We should always investigate.”

He expressed concern that the city releasing the records could make them “liable,” calling the decision “selective.”

In fact, we spoke to a local employment attorney, Alan Olson, who told us the city is opening itself up to liability by NOT protecting the employees alleging harassment. The city is now on notice and has an obligation under federal and state law to protect its employees from harassment in the workplace, he said, strongly criticizing the city’s statement that Spencer didn’t fall under its anti-harassment policy.

That doesn’t remove the city’s duty to protect its workers, he said. The city did suggest a series of changes to practices in Spencer’s office, such as holding focus groups and more training, but Spencer wrote in an email that he didn’t think the city had the right to do so, as he is an elected official.

“An employer has a duty to maintain a workplace free of retaliation and discrimination and harassment,” Olson said. “It’s pretty absurd to suggest the city doesn’t have a responsibility to protect employees from the city attorney.”

Hughes also claimed that attorney-client privilege could have prevented the records from being released. “You’re looking at it totally right,” Spencer said, alleging, bizarrely, that the harassment allegations against him might “extend a little further into work product. We don’t have to disclose our work product.”

He said the city allowed the “veil to be pierced.”

Spencer singled out long-time aldermen Michael Murphy and Nick Kovac for criticism. He claimed the conspiracy against him was a “collective effort. Those at City Hall don’t want that change.”

In the interview, the city attorney said he wanted to reduce the costs of police misconduct, protect protesters’ first amendment rights, diversify his office, and make the office “more equitable when enforcing policies.”

Tearman Spencer Accusers

The report alleges in part,

“During a virtual meeting on or around April 28, 2020, Mr. Spencer asked men about their heights and told females that question was just for the men; in that same meeting, Mr. Spencer referred to female employees as dear, sweetheart and/or sweetie. Mr. Spencer also remarked about one female staying home to be with family and noted that being with children is the most important thing she could do.”

“During a virtual meeting on or around August 13, 2020, Mr. Spencer asked males about beards and females about their families.”

“In various meetings or conversations, Mr. Spencer called women over-emotional, smiley, having a nice smile, telling women they looked nice and commented on women’s looks or bodies/body parts.”

“In a virtual meeting including City Attorney employees and others outside of the City Attorney’s office, Mr. Spencer stated that ‘women like to be fashionably late.’”

lesli boese

Lesli Boese Says Mike Thurston Amended 1/3 of Cases; He Slams Her ‘Backlog’ & Trial Numbers

This is story 2 in WRN's 7-part series on the Waukesha County District Attorney's race,...
tommy thompson trump

Wisconsin Govs Tommy Thompson & Scott Walker Will ‘Criss-Cross’ State to Boost Trump

"The momentum is building" - Wisconsin GOP Chair Brian Schimming Former Wisconsin Governors Tommy Thompson and...
michael thurston

Waukesha County DA Candidates Slam Soft-on-Crime Policies Under Tony Evers

This is story 1 in WRN's 7-part series on the Waukesha County District Attorney's race,...
trump milwaukee

Trump and Milwaukee [Up Against the Wall]

Democrats love their cities. They know that people who move to cities are more likely...
david prosser

In ‘Petty’ Move, Liberal Justices Erase Conservative’s Name From State Law Library

The liberal partisans on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are erasing former conservative Justice David Prosser's...
dan bice

Stop the Presses! The Media Is Upset Brad Schimel Was Caught Speeding

Dan Bice left out a key sentence that changes the context. Stop the presses! The liberal...
tammy baldwin biden

Sen. Tammy Baldwin Says Biden Presidency Is ‘One of the Most Successful’ in Generations

Tammy Baldwin praised the "accomplishments" of the Biden administration. Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin insists that...
Wisconsin School Choice Lawsuit Expanding School Choice Kirk Bangstad Wisconsin school choice Milwaukee School Choice

Response to MPS Debacle MUST Include Expanded School Choice for All Families

No response to the regrettable MPS debacle will be adequate if it does not include...
trump milwaukee

7 Members of Congress DEBUNK Claim Trump Disparaged Milwaukee as a ‘Horrible City’

Seven members of Congress have debunked the misleading media claim that former President Donald Trump...
john e wall

John E. Wall: The Importance of Fathers [Up Against the Wall]

My father, John E. Wall, age 91, passed away on Monday, October 30th, 2017. He...
kamala harris most liberal

Voters Lack Confidence Kamala Harris Can Become President

Vice President Kamala Harris has a fight on her hands if she wants to inherit the Democratic presidential mantle after President Joe Biden’s time is over, according to a new poll.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that voters have serious doubts about Harris’ electability.

The poll found only 14% of voters said it was “very likely” Harris would win a general election for president if she became the Democratic nominee. Another 20% said it was “somewhat likely.”

The poll is especially noteworthy given Biden's age. The incumbent president is 81 years old and appears increasingly in decline.

A moment of confusion for Biden at a June 6 D-Day ceremony went viral last week, the latest in a string of similar incidents. At the same time, Biden remains competitive with former President Donald Trump, though several polls suggest Trump has a lead over the president.

Biden's incidents have led some to speculate that Democrats could or should try to replace Biden at the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. That would be a highly unusual, though not impossible, move. Removing Biden would naturally raise the question about who could replace him, but for now voters seem to lack confidence that Harris could win.

The poll also looked ahead to 2028: “If President Joe Biden were not in the running for president in 2028, which of the following Democrats, if any, would you want to be the Democratic candidate for president?”

While Harris was top of the list among Democrats, she only received 21% support. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg both received 10% support each, while 41% said they were unsure or didn't know.

Only 42% of those polled described Harris as trustworthy, and 44% described her as honest, according to the poll.

Notably, only 36% of those surveyed said Biden should replace Harris as his VP on the ticket.

trump convicted felon

Hell YES, I’m Voting For the Convicted Felon! [WRN Voices]

The dust has now settled after a period of time, when a former president was...

A Do-Over Is Needed on the $252 Million MPS Referendum [WRN VOICES]

By Steve Ewing Time to throw the challenge flag on the MPS referendum. Recently, voters in...
washington county da

Warring Law Enforcement Endorsements in Washington County DA’s Race

Candidates Barry Braatz and Mandy Schepper have each announced major law enforcement endorsements as the...

MPS Failed to Follow State Law by Not Filing Financial Reports With City Clerk

The Milwaukee Public Schools board has failed to follow a state law requiring the district's...

GOP Lawmakers Want Legislative Auditors to Review MPS Finances

(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol don’t want Gov. Tony Evers to waste the chance to get a good look at Milwaukee Public Schools’ shortcomings.

Evers recently called for an operational and an instructional audit of MPS.

“I’m proposing today to go two steps further with two important goals: the first, to audit MPS’ programs and operations in their entirety, and the second, to audit the effectiveness of teaching and instruction of our kids in classrooms across the district,” Evers said.

The governor, however, wants to keep the audit within his administration and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said that’d be a mistake.

“I’m glad that Gov. Evers has called for an audit of the Milwaukee Public School System. Gov. Evers and DPI should work with Joint Legislative Audit Committee Co-Chairs [Eric] Wimberger and [Robert] Wittke to discuss authorizing the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau to audit MPS, DPI and any other involved stakeholders,” LeMahieu said. “The LAB is more than capable of handling this important undertaking independently and transparently without the use of outside contractors.”

The worry is an audit controlled by the governor’s office will not fully look into MPS’s shortcomings.

The calls for audits in Milwaukee Public Schools come after the state withheld nearly $17 million last week because of incomplete and late financial reports. One of those reports was due to the Department of Public Instruction in September 2023.

Evers has asked MPS leaders to be a part of any audit process but warned that not everyone will be invited.

“I also have to say – I’m exceedingly disappointed by the politicking and jockeying I’ve seen since this situation came to light by opportunists who’re seizing this moment to serve their own selfish goals instead of worrying about what matters most: our kids,” Evers added.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos took to social media to accuse the governor of being the one who is playing politics.

“And who do you think [Evers] will suggest conducts the audits?” Vos asked. “The same failed DPI bureaucrats who allowed this to happen or his administration who wanted to dismantle the school choice system so all kids were forced into this MPS mess? We need real reforms to the current mentality where MPS has been protecting the bureaucracy and Gov. Evers has been advocating for shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars into this broken system.”

Report Clearing Biden Biden Approval Rating Americore Biden Acknowledge Hamas Biden Tells Israel Not to Occupy Gaza Biden impeachment Supreme Court Strikes Down Biden’s Student Loan Cancellation

Biden’s New Staffing Requirements Put Most Illinois Nursing Homes in Peril

An industry group says the Biden administration’s new staffing regulations for long-term care facilities are unrealistic.

The mandate requires that all nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding provide a total of at least 3.48 hours of nursing care per resident per day. Plus, nursing homes must have a registered nurse onsite at all times.

Research by shows 82%, or nearly 12,000 facilities in the U.S., will need to hire staff or face being shut down.

Spokesperson Corie Wagner said Illinois is home to the fifth highest number of understaffed nursing homes in the country.

“If we were to apply the new policies and new standards to nursing homes in Illinois today, 84% of facilities would need more staff, and that is really significant,” said Wagner.

The mandate will be phased in over three years, with rural communities having up to five years.

Nursing home operators strongly objected to the minimum staffing proposal in September, saying they already struggle to fill open positions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September announced a $75 million campaign to increase the number of nurses in nursing homes.

Nearly 1.2 million residents live in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified, long-term care facilities, but Wagner said that number is expected to increase.

“It’s called the Silver Tsunami, so more Americans are aged 65 or older than ever,” said Wagner. “It's one of the largest segments of our population but the infrastructure we have is not keeping up with our population shift.”

A resolution aimed at overturning Biden’s nursing home staffing mandate has a legitimate chance to pass the U.S. Senate.

tammy baldwin

Protesters Shout at Sen. Tammy Baldwin at Wisconsin Democratic Convention [VIDEO]

Pro-Palestinian protesters shouted at U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin at the state Democratic Convention in Milwaukee...
mps referendum

Milwaukee Public Schools Must Immediately Halt Referendum Spending

Milwaukee Public Schools must immediately halt all spending authorized by the narrowly passed $252 million...

Milwaukee Aldermen Call Out Gov. Evers for Not Sharing MPS Problems With Public

Two Milwaukee aldermen are calling out Gov. Tony Evers' office, questioning why Evers did not...