House of Correction begins inquiry of staff

The Milwaukee County House of Correction has launched an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against its staff, officials said Tuesday

Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Mayer confirmed the investigation, but declined to discuss specifics. He declined to say how long the investigation might take or how many staffers had been accused of harassment.

“There were some situations brought to our attention, and we treat each case seriously,” Mayer said.

A private attorney hired by the county to help in the investigation has attempted to interview House of Correction staff about harassment claims. But the correctional officers union has objected to those sessions, saying a union representative must be present, said Kevin Schoofs, president of the union local. That demand prevented scheduled interviews of two staffers, he said.

District Attorney John Chisholm said his separate criminal investigation regarding sexual harassment claims against House of Correction staff is continuing. It began earlier this year.

The county’s internal investigation comes within weeks of a disciplinary action taken against Lt. Carlos Torres, a 16-year veteran of the Franklin lockup.

Torres, 55, is accused of forcing a female officer to touch him indecently, according to formal disciplinary charges issued Sept. 9. He has been suspended indefinitely without pay, and House of Correction Superintendent Ron Malone is recommending that Torres be fired.

A hearing on the charge against Torres before the county Personnel Review Board has been scheduled for January. Torres denies the allegations and will fight to get his job back, said Brigid Boyle, Torres’ lawyer.

The harassment investigation follows a scathing federal audit released this year that describes the House of Correction as dysfunctional, with serious staff morale and security problems.

The report by the National Institute of Corrections notes instances of “well-known, long-term romantic relationships among some members of the (House of Correction) work force, and that includes supervisors and managers.”

Those relationships have led to complaints of favoritism and bias and caused trouble “with the orderly running of the operation,” the report says.

In his 2009 budget, County Executive Scott Walker has proposed shifting oversight of the House of Correction to Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.

source: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=801210

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