Brief

Milwaukee Democratic Host Committee leaders fired

By: - February 5, 2020 8:35 am
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Members of the media watch the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

DES MOINES, IOWA – JANUARY 14: Members of the media watch the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Democratic Host Committee, a nonpartisan group responsible for helping organize the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, has come under fire with a shake up and investigations into a “toxic work environment.”

First reported by Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the shake up led to the dismissal yesterday of president of the host committee Liz Gilbert and chief of staff Adam Alonso. The issues came to light after the news outlet obtained a letter to staff from the board, revealing that lawyers had been retained to investigate the situation. According to MJS, the probe will be conducted by Carmen N. Decot, a partner with Foley & Lardner.

With the DNC just six months away, it’s a bad time to decapitate the host committee. The allegations revolve around claims of the bullying and harassment of employees. Staff also accuse Gilbert and Alonso of prioritizing consolidating power with political friends in New Jersey over the task at hand — preparing for the convention this summer in Milwaukee. Both Gilbert and Alonso were placed on administrative leave, before being fired by the board.

“We are committed to an inclusive, non-discriminatory, and supportive environment at the host committee,” the board said in its letter, “and we will work to ensure that all employees live up to those ideals.”

The host committee has a tall order to fulfill, even as its  very structure is now being reshuffled. Over 15,000 volunteers are needed to help with the convention, as well as $70 million which is to be raised by the host committee. Milwaukee will be flooded with press, visitors, activists and politicians. Rather than buttoning down the details, the committee’s current leadership may have had other priorities in mind. It wasn’t until late last month, MJS reports, that Alonso was relieved from his $15,000 consulting job with the New Jersey Democratic Party. Gilbert and Alonso were also accused of awarding contracts to their allies in New Jersey, while their focus was supposed to be managing the Milwaukee committee.

“The Democratic Party is firm in our belief that every person deserves to feel safe and respected at their place of work,” said Joe Solomonese, executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee. “We will always take seriously claims of bullying and workplace harassment.”

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.

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