City Improperly Ordered Lieutenant To Lower Sergeant’s Evaluation

Written on 07/09/2022
Will Aitchison

Lieutenant Elizabeth Ibarra works for the Milwaukee Police Department. She currently serves as the Municipal Lock-Up Facility Administrator for Central Booking and supervises about nine sergeants who supervise about 50 officers.

She supervised Sergeant Salvador Hernandez, and in September 2019 prepared his annual evaluation. She then gave him almost all 5’s, which was the highest number she could give, for a total score of 4.98. Both of them signed the evaluation.

Ibarra did not give Hernandez a copy of that evaluation. Several months later Hernandez asked her to provide a copy of that evaluation to his attorney, William Rettko, which she did. Her­nandez was appealing to the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (FPC) dis­cipline for off-duty conduct at the time.

Captain James Campbell and Cap­tain Paul Lough ordered Ibarra to lower Hernandez’s scores on the evaluation. Ibarra testified that “the captains came into my lieutenant’s office and said they needed to talk to me and they gave me the evaluation that I had signed along with Sergeant Hernandez approximately two to three months prior and they said these numbers were too high, nobody gets these kinds of numbers and how would this look if he would go up for discipline before the Fire and Police Commission? This wouldn’t look good.”

Pursuant to the Captains’ order, Ibarra prepared a second evaluation, lowering Hernandez’s overall score from 4.98 to 3.23. The City then began an investigation of Ibarra, eventually sus­pending her for five days for improperly providing a copy of the first evaluation to Hernandez’ lawyer, who used the eval­uation in the FPC hearing considering Hernandez’ discipline. The City took the position that the first evaluation was “confidential.”

Arbitrator Amedeo Greco over­turned the discipline. The Arbitrator’s opinion started off bluntly: “There is no merit to the City’s claim that Ibarra should be disciplined because the FPC hearing was televised and because her testimony ‘created the appearance of impropriety’ within the Department. She did not create that ‘appearance.’

“In fact, it was the City that looked bad at the hearing because without that second evaluation there would not have been any concerns over the City’s actions. Captains Lough and Campbell were responsible for that ‘appearance’ because they subverted the evaluation process by ordering Ibarra to lower Hernandez’s overall scores from 4.98 to 3.23 because, in their words, his higher scores ‘wouldn’t look good’ to the FPC. They thus wanted the City to score points before the FPC by not letting the FPC see Hernandez’s higher scores in his first evaluation.

“Their order to Ibarra to prepare a second evaluation was unprecedented within recent memory, as Lieutenant Looney, Inspector Sarnow, and Sergeant Martin all testified that they have nev­er heard of a second evaluation being ordered.

“While a second evaluation can be ordered for proper purposes, it cannot be ordered for improper purposes, which is the situation here, because the second evaluation was ordered for the sole purpose of strengthening the City’s case against Hernandez before the FPC. Furthermore, Special Examiner Rudolf Konrad at the July 9 FPC hearing said the second evaluation Ibarra was told to sign ‘undermines’ the FPC’s work. His finger pointing at the City goes to the heart of this matter because he rightly concluded that the City’s second evalu­ation undermined the PFC’s work.

“Captain Looney stated Ibarra could have testified at the FPC hearing that ‘she originally had drafted or authored a department evaluation where she scored Hernandez with the original scores,’ and that she subsequently was told to change ‘it by her commanding officers’ without having to provide the actual paper doc­ument. Looney thus acknowledged that the written contents of the first evaluation were not confidential and that they could be publicly released.

“In addition, Looney and Assistant City Attorney Robin Pederson at the FPC hearing did not challenge the in­troduction of the first evaluation into the record, thereby waiving the City’s claim that the first evaluation was confidential because: ‘once confidentiality is destroyed through voluntary disclosure, no subse­quent claim of privilege can restore it, and knowledge or a lack of knowledge of the existence of the privilege appears to be irrelevant.’

“Based upon all of the above, I con­clude that the City lacked just cause to discipline Ibarra and that her suspension must be overturned.”

Milwaukee Police Supervisors’ Or­ganization, No. A/P PO 1-007 (Greco, 2022).

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