Update 3: A Milwaukee County Bureaucrat’s Immoral Utilitarianism

I’ve written before about the perverse and immoral policy of John Chianelli, director of Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Division. Chianelli has implemented a policy, by his own admission, of trading male-on-male violence among mental patients for male-on-female sexual assault. I’ve posted about Chianelii’s policy, and the shameful irresponsibility of Milwaukee County officials over it, before. See, A Milwaukee County Bureaucrat’s Immoral Utilitarianism and Update: A Milwaukee County Bureaucrat’s Immoral Utilitarianism, Update 2: A Milwaukee County Bureaucrat’s Immoral Utilitarianism.

The Journal Sentinel has more on the BHD’s Mental Health Complex, and the Journal‘s new information reveals a predictable and unquestionably wrong policy of a public entity concealing as much information as possible. Milwaukee County’s BHD even hired a private lawyer to help the county conceal its potential misconduct.

From a story entitled, “Mental Health Complex Racks Up $204,000 in Lawyer Fees,” readers learn that

A private attorney hired by Milwaukee County has cost taxpayers nearly $204,000 over the past three years to defend the county against possible lawsuits or criminal charges over shoddy care at the Mental Health Complex.

The county initially hired Mark Cameli in December 2006 at $395 an hour to help the county with a possible criminal case after the death of a patient at the county’s Mental Health Complex. Cindy Anczak died in August 2006 from complications of starvation. The state Department of Justice investigated the case, but no charges were filed….

Tim Schoewe, the county’s acting corporation counsel, said Cameli was hired for his expertise on “highly technical” state and federal regulatory issues. Cameli is a former federal prosecutor and civil litigator.

His biography on the Reinhart firm’s Web site touts Cameli’s expertise in “persuading federal and state prosecutors not to charge public officials, health care professionals and other clients, avoiding all publicity and damage to the client’s reputation.”

Cameli has advised county officials to keep quiet about the patient assaults, an admonishment closely followed by John Chianelli, the head of the county’s Behavioral Health Division. Cameli did not reply to a reporter’s phone call and e-mail for comment for this story….

Cameli’s contract is unusual because it runs through the Behavioral Health Division’s budget, rather than the corporation counsel’s budget, said Supervisor Lynne De Bruin. She was the only supervisor to oppose the contract when it came before the board in December 2006.

De Bruin said she was concerned about a single county department – the Behavioral Health Division – having a long-term contract with a private lawyer. Most other instances in which the county hires outside legal help are for specific cases, she said.

“It’s as if BHD has its own attorney on retainer,” she said.

No, never: public entities — municipal corporations that are under public control — must never be allowed to act as private entities, concealing litigation and potential misdeeds from public view. They are not, and will never be, private parties. They are public things, and are obligated to the citizens from whom their authority derives. Bureaucrats must never be allowed to act — pretend, really — that they’re private wheeler dealers, unobligated to the people they govern.

I have always argued against confidentiality in municipal litigation. See, Against Confidentiality in Municipal Litigation. Whitewater is lousy with this wrong and harmful view, where public officials seek confidentiality, and skirt simple procedures, to have their way. They act as though they have independent authority. That’s wholly false, and deeply un-American — all public authority derives from the consent of the governed. There are no exceptions, and there cannot be, in a free society.

Milwaukee County’s Behavior Health Division is behaving as one or another of Whitewater’s middling bureaucrats would behave. Better a day of a correct understanding than a lifetime as selfish bureaucrat, mired in error.

I don’t know what Chianelli’s been up to lately, except that his Behavioral Health Division was under federal investigation, a lawsuit, and a rising number of sexual assaults on female patients. He was once, however, quite a man-about-town.

Here’s a photograph of Chianelli, from June 25th, 2008, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Rogers Memorial Hospital:

Chianelli, then Acting Director of Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Division, is third from the left, in the ill-fitting blue suit.

He seems almost jolly in the photo, although one cannot say the same for the mental patients under his care.

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