The public should clear its throat to politely remind Milwaukee County’s supervisors that everyone can see them finagling to fire Brian Taffora.
It’s the kind of petty political back stabbing that usually takes place behind closed doors or in dark corners of quiet bars. Politicians huddle together, plot ways to damage their enemies and then subtly slide in the knife without leaving fingerprints.
Such cunning, apparently, is beyond the 14 Milwaukee County supervisors who voted to change the title of Taffora’s position from “economic development director” to “director of county economic development.”
When those supervisors approved the job title change during a budget meeting Monday, not one of them justified the action by explaining how it would improve the operations of county government or make it more responsive to taxpayers.
They’re just angry because Taffora, after a year and a half on the job, still doesn’t reside in Milwaukee County. They’re angry because Kerry Mitchell, the county’s director of human resources, granted Taffora a waiver from the county’s residency requirement.
Most important, though least acknowledged, is the hint of anger over a perceived slight. Some supervisors allege County Executive Chris Abele and Taffora violated proper procedure by announcing plans for The Couture, a high-rise building proposed for downtown Milwaukee, without first discussing other options with the board.
The change in the job title is barely concealed payback and the only way the board can fire Taffora, who works at the pleasure of Abele.
Abele is expected to veto the change. But if the board overrides that veto, Abele would have to nominate Taffora for the “new” position. Taffora would lose his residency waiver, and the board would get to decide whether he loses his job.
It’s the first time the board has attempted such a tactic, said 20-year Supervisor Mark Borkowski, who voted against the title change.
It doesn’t matter that Taffora’s Cedarburg home is for sale or that Mitchell is satisfied he truly wants to move to Milwaukee County. It doesn’t matter that Mitchell followed the letter of the ordinance in granting the waiver.
Those supervisors apparently don’t care that Mitchell estimated Taffora’s salary is 65 percent of that paid to his counterparts in four Wisconsin municipalities.
If the board gets its way, difficulties finding more money to pay Taffora’s replacement won’t even come close to the struggle of persuading someone to work for such spiteful bosses.
The County Board either forgot or doesn’t care that it is performing before an audience that includes potential employees. And the only argument those supervisors have to justify their action is that their next target almost certainly will see them coming.