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Dimitrijevic’s leadership role could be in the balance

By Beth Kevit

Marina Dimitrijevic soon could be fighting to keep her job as chairwoman of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Mark Borkowski said he will call for a special election in the near future to replace Dimitrijevic if she does not follow his recommendation that committee chairpersons be removed from their positions.

Two new board members, Khalif Rainey and Tony Staskunas, started Thursday and need to be assigned to committees, Borkowski said. That gives the chairwoman the opportunity to change leadership positions and prove her commitment to reform.

Dimitrijevic did not respond to multiple requests for comment by deadline Friday afternoon.

According to an email attributed to Brendan Conway, County Executive Chris Abele’s director of communications, Abele declined to comment on whether Dimitrijevic should continue as board chairwoman.

At least four supervisors, however, said they would fight for Dimitrijevic. Supervisors Theo Lipscomb Sr., Vice Chairwoman Peggy Romo West, Jason Haas and Gerry Broderick said they support the chairwoman.

“I’ll go to the wall with her,” Broderick said, “because she’s done a terrific job of forging a reform package that I don’t think anyone else on the board could have done.”

Broderick said he believes Borkowski, who is chairman of the board’s Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee, is trying to distance himself from the board’s controversial reform process.

“Perhaps,” Broderick said, “he’s just trying to disassociate himself from the leadership to protect himself from whatever comes down the road.”

Borkowski, who said he is not trying to take Dimitrijevic’s place, said his discontent with the chairwoman stems in part from the board’s fumbling efforts to pass a county government reform proposal before the state could impose changes. The board passed a reform resolution, 15-3, on Thursday, but Borkowski said he has zero confidence those changes will stand if the state approves two pending bills.

“I’m at a stage where I am so angry with the process and just the stupidity of leadership,” he said, “and then to think that our reform is going to trump theirs? Get off your cloud.”

Joe Czarnezki, Milwaukee County Clerk for the past five years, said the chairwoman can be removed at any time, although he said he does not recall it ever happening.

According to Milwaukee County ordinances, a chairperson can be removed if two-thirds of the board requests a special election through a petition and if two-thirds of the board subsequently votes for a replacement. Any one of the other 17 board members could take Dimitrijevic’s place, Czarnezki said. Dimitrijevic would remain a supervisor.

Supervisor John Weishan Jr. said he believes Dimitrijevic would have to step down if she truly wants to prove the board is serious about reform.

“I think,” he said, “she has lost the full faith and trust of the state Legislature.”

Supervisor Deanna Alexander, citing alleged misconduct related to alleged union negotiations but declining to discuss those actions, said she is disappointed in how Dimitrijevic has acted while in office.

“I think there have been a lot of missteps by leadership,” she said.

Supervisor Steve Taylor said he, Barkowski, Alexander and Weishan sent a memo to other board members giving a noon Monday deadline to weigh in on the special election.

The next move, Borkowski said, is Dimitrijevic’s to make.

“If it really doesn’t make any changes then, yes,” he said, “I will start the process to go after her.”

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