- Sean Ryan
- Reporter-The Business Journal
Teig Whaley-Smith, Milwaukee County economic development director, made the first phone call requesting a change in the proposed state of Wisconsin budget to support the Couture high-rise project on Milwaukee’s lakefront.
And Whaley-Smith got reprimanded for it by Milwaukee County Board officials this week. Three supervisors, during a committee hearing, said he exceeded orders they had approved.
“We are the policy-makers and we make that decision and you decided on yourself, and probably some other influence, to go out and lobby,” said Supervisor Michael Mayo.
A tense exchange during the hearing is the latest sign of ongoing tension regarding the divide of power between the Milwaukee County Board and Executive Chris Abele. Those differences came to a head with the state approving a bill more clearly separating their powers and giving more authority to the executive’s office.
In this case, the tension is over Whaley-Smith’s May 16 phone call to state Rep.Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), asking that he support legislation to clear up the Public Trust Doctrine concerns on the Downtown Transit Center. Developer Rick Barrett plans to buy the transit center property on Milwaukee’s lakefront for his 44-story Couture development, which would have apartments and a hotel.
Stone ran with the county request, meeting with Whaley-Smith and others on May 29 for more information, Whaley-Smith said. Stone authored an amendment added on June 5 to the proposed state budget.
Three board members said they didn’t authorize such a request to state lawmakers. Supervisor David Bowen said it is clear the state budget move is needed, however, “definitely the wrong route was chosen to move forward with this.”