Monday, June 21, 2010

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Upholds Milwaukee Police Department Employee's Termination

A former Milwaukee Police Department employee, Mark Vasquez, and the Milwaukee Police Association appealed a decision of the circuit court and the Milwaukee City Board of Fire and Police Commissioners finding that Vasquez had violated Milwaukee Police Department Rule 4, § 2/040.00, which states that all employees of the police department "shall reside in the [C]ity of Milwaukee except when on vacation, or as otherwise provided in these rules." The Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed.

The facts are rather interesting. Vasquez and his family bought some property in Mukwonago and built a home on it which his wife and children then moved into. However, Vasquez rented an apartment in Milwaukee which he claims he slept at five times per week, which the Court ultimately concluded was done for purposes of skirting around the residency rule.

He kept his car insured at the Milwaukee apartment, used the Milwaukee address
for his voter's registration and fishing license, and received his mail there.
He testified that all of his personal belongings were kept at the Milwaukee
apartment. However, Vasquez also testified that upon his retirement from the
police department he intends to join his wife and family in Mukwonago if they
still reside there.

The Board found, based on evidence admitted at the
hearing, that Vasquez maintained the following routine during a "'normal'" work
week:

4 out of 5 nights prior to work days he slept at the Milwaukee
apartment and went to work the next morning from that location. He left work
each day and either stopped briefly at the Milwaukee apartment or drove directly
to Mukwonago where he spent several hours with his wife and children. He then
drove back to Milwaukee to sleep and repeat the routine once again. On his final
work day of the week, Vasquez would normally leave the Milwaukee apartment that
morning to go to work and not return to the Milwaukee apartment until the night
after his next work day, an absence of more than 3 ½ days.
Apparently there are eight factors considered in determining actual residency for purposes of the Police Department rule and the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision finding that Vasquez's residence was indeed the Mukwonago residence and struck down Vasquez's other arguments regarding his use of "free time," the definition of "residency" and that the MPD could have disciplined him other than discharge.

Here is the full decision.

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