No Witch In This Hunt Yet
There's got to be more to John Chisholm's leaky John Doe investigation than is being reported in today's newspaper. Seriously, no prosecutor could have spent almost two years chasing their tail on something like this unless there's a lot more. At least, I hope not!
Simplifying things, here's what the local newspaper says the investigation is all about:
For several years prior to 2005, some employees of Milwaukee County's Department of Aging were housed in rented office space at Schlitz Park. In 2005, the real estate broker for the property tried to convince the County to renew the lease without seeking other bids. This effort failed.
Initially, Schlitz Park submitted the low bid on the lease renewal. The County then went to other bidders and gave them a chance to beat the bid from Schlitz Park. Owners of the Reuss Building (the big blue monstrosity on Wisconsin Avenue across from Grand Avenue) did so - and received a five year lease. The lease was approved by the Milwaukee County Board and signed off on by then County Executive Walker.
The folks at Schlitz Park claim the County failed to calculate the bids properly (and that their bid was actually lower than the Reuss bid when everything was considered). Maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong - after all, this the same County Board that gave us the Milwaukee County Pension scandal.
For purposes of a John Doe investigation though, this all seems irrelevant - because even if there was something criminal (which there doesn't appear to be), the six-year Statute of Limitations has expired.
Which brings us to 2010.
When the Reuss lease was up, the County again solicited bids for office space. Eleven developers bid on the lease. Ultimately, the County elected to move employees with the Department of Aging from the Reuss Building and relocate them into vacant space owned by the County. In other words, no deal with any private real estate developers, no kickbacks, no pay for play, no witch for this hunt.
While the County was considering the Reuss lease, they were apparently also considering dumping an aging hospital at 27th and Wells ("City Campus") where other County employees were housed. To facilitate this, an employee at the Department of Aging reached out to at least one developer in an effort to determine whether there was any interest in taking over the building. Subsequently, the County solicited bids on the property but ultimately decided not to sell to anyone.
Again, no deal with any private real estate developers, no kickbacks, no play for play, no nothing.
Despite the fact that this "secret" investigation has been anything but ... there is a chance that prosecutors have a smoking gun that hasn't been leaked. If this is all they have though, it's way past time to close up shop and move on.
This course of action won't make John Chisholm's political allies very happy - but it would seem to be the right thing to do.