Two of a Seven Chapter Series
UPDATE: WRN has requested comment from every Wisconsin Assembly member regarding this article. We will publish a follow up article detailing those responses.
“I find the conduct of Mr. Bowen to be appalling and disgusting. He has made a mockery of our system of law and order in Wisconsin, and has brought disgrace to the office in which he serves,” – Chief Weber
Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber requested that the state Legislature discipline and possibly expel Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) for his conduct relating to a Wauwatosa riot where a police officer was shot at and assaulted, telling the Assembly Speaker pointblank in a letter, “Mr. Bowen lied in his publicly issued statement.”
“I find the conduct of Mr. Bowen to be appalling and disgusting. He has made a mockery of our system of law and order in Wisconsin, and has brought disgrace to the office in which he serves,” Weber wrote.
“Sir, I request that this matter be brought to the attention of the membership and that disciplinary action up to and including expulsion be considered,” requested the chief. [Read Weber’s letter here.]
Weber’s complaint hasn’t been made public before. Wisconsin Right Now obtained a copy of it, along with the newly released police reports through open records laws.
There would be precedent for this; in 2010, the Legislature censured Jeff Wood, a Republican/independent, for “unbecoming conduct” for three OWI arrests. A move to expel him failed. The successful censure resolution read that Wood “brought disrepute on the Wisconsin state assembly by damaging the institution’s integrity with the public.”
The chief’s letter was addressed to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. What happened as a result?
We asked Vos for comment as to why no action was taken against Bowen; he said he would get back to us, but hasn’t yet. We will update the article if he responds.
In the first part of our series exploring what really happened when the People’s Revolution protest/riot group caused a violent melee at then Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah’s house, we revealed that two members of the People’s Revolution told police that Bowen lied to the public about what happened that day; the man charged with a felony for discharging a gun toward the officer said Bowen encouraged him not to turn himself in to police.
The police reports also quote People’s Revolution members as saying Bowen hurled an expletive at the officer, was at the scene that day and was in the parking lot earlier when the protest group’s members were buying toilet paper. Bowen refused to sit down with police to provide a witness account, even though he was a witness to a felony. Bowen has called for Weber to be fired and trashed the police officer who was shot at; Bowen was not arrested or charged in connection with the incident, which also left Officer Joseph Mensah’s police officer girlfriend bruised when a group of at least six other People’s Revolution members attacked her.
Legislature Discipline Precedent
There would be precedent for the Legislature to heed Weber’s request. Thirteen legislators have been disciplined in the Wisconsin Legislature’s history, according to a 2020 Legislative Reference Bureau report called “Discipline in the Wisconsin Legislature: A History of Reprimand, Censure, Suspension, and Expulsion.”
Expulsion is historically rare in the Wisconsin Legislature. It’s happened twice, the report says: “Councilman James R. Vineyard for the murder of another member of the 1842 territorial legislature and Senator Frank Raguse for treasonous words spoken on the senate floor in debate during World War I in 1917.”
However, there are other options that don’t require a two thirds vote. The report says:
The Wisconsin Constitution gives the legislature the power to expel its members with a two-thirds majority vote. In this way, the severest of penalties requires an affirmative vote of an extraordinary majority of each house. The Assembly and Senate may also punish their members for contempt and disorderly behavior. Since there is no supermajority requirement for punishing contempt or disorderly behavior, legislative discipline for these actions requires only a majority vote of members present, assuming a quorum exists. As with the expulsion of members, the constitution provides no clear or explicit grounds for disciplining a member. Each house of the legislature alone determines the permissible boundaries of conduct subject to expulsion and discipline…Another punishment that could be used by the legislature is to impose a monetary fine on members for their contempt or disorderly behaviors.
According to the report, “Censured behaviors or conduct can include criminal behavior, violation of legislative rules, or conduct that undermines or calls into question the integrity of a legislative body. In other words, a member may be censured or reprimanded for behavior inside or outside the institution and for criminal or noncriminal behavior. The focus is on whether the member has discredited the institution.”
According to The Atlantic, expulsion was contemplated against state Rep. Bill Kramer, a Republican accused of sexual harassment.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently called for three Republicans to be expelled from Congress – Ron Johnson, Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Tiffany – over voter fraud statements, even though Johnson voted to certify the election. The newspaper has made no similar call to expel Bowen for his comments and presence at a riot in which two police officers were beaten and a gun was discharged near them.
Bowen has urged removal of the president for the Capitol riots, writing, “A non debatable Impeachment & Removal vote in both the House and Senate scheduled for tonight be great… make a clean up or down vote and we see where ppl like Sen. Ron Johnson stand.”
Chief Weber’s Complaint Letter
We can now reveal that, on September 1, Weber wrote Vos the scathing complaint letter about Bowen.
“On Aug. 10, 2020, State Representative David Bowen issues a press statement on official state letterhead, regarding an incident that he was present at, on Aug. 8, 2020,” it reads.
“On that date a group of people who refer to themselves as ‘The People’s Revolution,’ including Mr. Bowen went to the residence of a Wauwatosa Police Officer, Joseph Mensah, and proceeded to verbally attack him, physically assault him, and trespass on his property. A shot was fired in Mensah’s direction into his house from a shotgun.”
The chief added, “Representative Bowen actively participated during this incident and claimed the officer’s statements were not factual. He accused not only the officer but also the Wauwatosa Police Department of issuing a false statement. He further claimed that Officer Mensah caused the entire problem. That is not true. Mr. Bowen lied in his publicly issued statement.”
Weber’s letter to Vos continues, “For almost a week following the incident, our investigators attempted to contact Mr. Bowen to give us information since he claimed to be a witness. He did not acknowledge our attempts to contact him. In fact, he had his attorney contact us and advise that he would not give a statement.”
The chief said, “The person who fired the weapon at Officer Mensah was subsequently identified by our investigators, was arrested and confessed to the actions that he took. The weapon was also recovered. The weapon was also recovered after a search warrant was issued. Mr. Bowen was also an active participant at an unlawful gathering in front of my home that occurred the previous night, August 7, 2020.”
Disclosure: WRN contributor Jessica McBride is the niece of Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride. Jim Piwowarcyzk, the owner of WRN, is the author of this story.
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