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Wauwatosa Alderman Missed Crucial City Business While Jailed

Sixth District Ald. Brian Ewerdt apologizes for absence during critical union contract discussions.

A family vacation to Florida in late February ended in jail time for Wauwatosa 6th District Ald. Brian Ewerdt and left him absent from city business for nearly three weeks during a critical time in civic affairs.

Ewerdt, a member of both the Common Council’s Employee Relations and Budget and Finance committees, was excused from the Feb. 22 meetings of those committees and the full council because he was on vacation.

But that same night in Kissimmee, FL, police records show, he was arrested for domestic battery and taken into custody by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department.

"I was involved in an unfortunate family situation while on vacation in Florida that didn't allow me to attend three city meetings, and for that I am deeply sorry," Ewerdt said in a prepared statement.

"I feel it is important to be honest, knowing elected officials are held to a higher standard," he said. "I invite any constituents to please call me directly to address any concerns."

During the following two weeks, the Employee Relations Committee met once in special session and once in regular session, holding critical discussions on city union workers' contracts and Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill. The Common Council also met March 1 but did not address the contracts.

Meanwhile, Ewerdt remained jailed in Florida for 17 days before posting bond and returning to Wisconsin the day before the council was to vote on the contracts on March 15.

According to the police report, the victim, a female relative whose name and relation were not released by police, said Ewerdt had been upset by a car accident he had been in earlier that day and that the two had an argument because he did not want to talk about it.

The report said Ewerdt put his hands around her neck and kicked her in the leg.

In the report, Ewerdt said the aggression was mutual, but another relative who witnessed the incident said Ewerdt was the instigator. The victim called authorities because, she said, she feared further violence.

Under Florida law, officers responding to a case of domestic violence must identify and arrest the party deemed most responsible, and Ewerdt was deemed the “primary aggressor” in the charging document.

The report said he gave substantially the same account of the incident as the victim except that he said he had also been attacked. The arresting officer said Ewerdt confessed to the battery and admitted there had been other minor incidents between himself and the victim that had not been reported to authorities.

Ewerdt was arraigned and charged the next day, and bond was set at $2,000.

Ewerdt, in an interview, said he could not afford to post bail immediately and it took 17 days for a friend to find him a lawyer in Florida and then for the lawyer to find a bail bondsman willing to post the money for someone from out of state.

According to court records, the county abandoned the case in late April, citing "no information filed," because the complainant no longer wished to pursue the matter.

Key meetings on contracts missed

Ewerdt returned to Wauwatosa the day before the Common Council – faced by a large and vocal crowd of citizens – voted down contracts the city had negotiated with three employee unions.

The committee meetings he missed during the preceding three weeks included lengthy and complex presentations of information on the contracts and related effects of the state budget repair bill. The committee went into closed session for an hour at the March 8 meeting.

"The meetings that were being held by Employee Relations at that time were very important business," said Ald. Peter Donegan, chairman of the committee. "Those were very critical and complicated discussions on employee compensation. They were attended by most aldermen, not just committee members.

"We were developing our position toward all of our unions in light of the budget repair bill. The budget repair bill was the most impactful legislation to affect this city in memory,” said Donegan, who would not comment on Ewerdt's absence.

A review of the minutes of all meetings of the Common Council, the Budget and Finance Committee and the Employee Relations Committee during and immediately following Ewerdt's absence revealed no votes in which his would have been a deciding factor.

Tosamom September 06, 2011 at 10:15 PM
He should resign.
jbw September 07, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Let the politician without any skeletons in the closet throw the first stone.
Maggie September 07, 2011 at 12:32 AM
And ALDERMAN that beats up on relatives?? I don't think so :(
cornelia beilke September 07, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Domestic violence is a serious issue and it needs to be treated as such. I hope that this very sad report will not prompt the insatiable public to sharpen their tongues! Instead, one could make a contribution to the coalition against domestic violence or simply say a prayer for him and his family!
tosamommy September 07, 2011 at 02:31 PM
I worked with Brian about 10 years ago and always found him to be a kind and decent person with a good heart. Obviously, I'm not privvy to his personal life, but family situations can be complicated and what goes on in his family life is none of our business.
Tosamom September 07, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Domestic abuse IS a serious issue. Ewerdt admitted there were "other minor incidents between himself and the victim that had not been reported . . .". He had his hands around the victim's neck and kicked the person. As a result of his behavior, he was jailed and missed crucial council meetings. Yes, this is serious on several different levels. I repeat. He should resign.
Patrick September 07, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Regardless of politics and personal like or dislike for the Alderman in question, if he is having personal issues that land him in jail it may be better for all involved (both family and citizens) that alderman focus on fixing his own issues vs. acting as a politician. It is known in counseling that high stress factors including work only leads to repeat episodes in domestic violence. Despite his position being part-time it may not be the appropriate time to act as a leader. We call on our leaders to be examples. Government officials may not be perfect but they should not be committing felonies. Police officers shouldn't drive while intoxicated, the Mayor shouldn't cheat on her taxes, and alder-persons shouldn't abuse their family.
John Pokrandt September 07, 2011 at 09:03 PM
At this point whatever he has done as a politician is beside the point. I believe he needs to step down
John Pokrandt September 07, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Of course this sounds a bit like a certain Supreme Court justice of ours and he's staying so maybe I'm off base here.
Patrick September 08, 2011 at 06:57 PM
Which justice, the one that was blamed and ultimately cleared or the one who admitted to embellishment? Sarcasm is best used when accurate!
John Pokrandt September 08, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Patrick "cleared" and "not criminally charged" are two different things. No one was going to charge him, Ozanne, Tubbs, Mahoney all punted. Prosser has an anger management issue going back to his time in the House. I don't think he tried to choke her but he put his hands on her which if you stretch the definition enough is assault.
Nancy Hall September 08, 2011 at 08:50 PM
As long as domestic violence is swept under the rug, then hundreds of thousands of women will continue to live in fear in their own homes. Women who are victims of domestic violence usually don't call the police the first few times as they believe that the incidents will be isolated. That's what the typical abuser promises, anyway. Waiting until the situation is intolerable is common. According to the description in the paper, this was not an isolated incident. It was preceded both by prior incidents of domestic violence and by a car accident earlier in the day. The alderman needs to resign and use the time for a good anger management program.
Patrick September 09, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Note: 3 liberals punted and later she recanted. What does that say?
Patrick September 09, 2011 at 12:32 AM
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/270679/more-details-emerge-wisconsin-s-chokegate-christian-schneider Read up. Once again use of sarcasm was off the mark. Please note I am a high sarcastic individual. In the end the use of other issues from the state clouded the issue of local alder-person issue.
Bucky September 09, 2011 at 01:46 AM
The Choker is still under investigation. Come November he won't be choking anyone anymore with coceal and carry. His choking days are done.
Christine McLaughlin September 09, 2011 at 02:11 PM
What kind of "complicated" family situation merits kicking someone?
Gas Pains September 09, 2011 at 04:25 PM
On March 31st I sumbled across the Osceola County Arrest Report on the web while Googling some of our public officials. I recall emailing the link to an acquaintance and wondered aloud how long it would take before this surfaced in full public view. Six months. That's a pretty good job of keeping it out of the public eye. Can anyone tell me if daytime angry radio or the keeper of Tosa's public morals is throwing a fit over this?
Tosamom September 10, 2011 at 01:11 PM
I don't listen to daytime angry radio and I don't think the keepers of public morals would sacrifice one of their own. I think all we will hear about this is a great deal of silence.
Meg September 24, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Touch'e Tosamom~ it is sad that a public official who leads the moral compass of a community is allowed to do something like this and still serve as a moral compass~ Domestic violence in ANY form with anyone is a sign that someone should not be in a leadership role and cannot accurately navigate a communities morals with any accuracy.

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