I guess County Supervisor Theo Lipscomb thinks it’s a good idea to make negative claims at the eleventh hour about developers in order to see their projects get delayed.
At the County Board meeting on Sept. 25, Milwaukee County Supervisor Theo Lipscomb relayed a damaging story, based entirely on hearsay, about businessman Jon Hammes — the man behind the project — shortly before a vote on the proposal.
The 8-year-old rumor, Lipscomb said, had come from former Supervisor Eyon Biddle.
“In 2006, as a young organizer, working on behalf of janitors trying to get downtown property owners to pay a reasonable wage, Eyon was down with other janitors protesting outside of a meeting,” Lipscomb said during the board meeting.
“They were being escorted out, and Mr. Hammes personally walks Eyon out, puts his hand on his shoulder and whispers in his ear, ‘No one gives a blank about low-wage workers.’ I felt he could say that to a young black man because he was wealthy and entitled. And who was this kid anyway?”
It was an incredibly rash and harmful charge against one of the Milwaukee area’s most powerful and community-minded businessmen. The County Board eventually voted to send the proposal back to committee.
Did Lipscomb have any proof to back up his allegations?
Lipscomb said he doesn’t know Hammes. But Lipscomb trusts Biddle, who has since taken a job with the Service Employees International Union in Colorado. “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it to be true,” Lipscomb said in an interview.
Biddle could not be reached for comment.
“There is no truth to those allegations,” said Hammes’ attorney, Marc Marotta.
On the day that Lipscomb made his remarks, Hammes was named to the Marquette University Board of Trustees. He also sits on the boards of the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin Foundation, the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Teach for America.
Marotta added, “It’s a real embarrassment to the county and to the area that someone in Theo’s position would make such an irresponsible statement based on hearsay about someone who has done so much for our community.”
As the article by Dan Bice notes, the proposal by Jon Hammes had been passed out of committee on a unanimous vote last month, and there was nary a peep at that time (or at any time since then) from Theo Lipscomb with claims that Jon Hammes made derogatory statements about low wage workers.
The development proposed by Jon Hammes would create 350 construction jobs paying the prevailing wage, and his development group also set a goal of giving a quarter of the construction work and 17% of the professional services costs to firms owned by disadvantaged individuals, and it’s a shame that all that good will be delayed because Theo Lipscomb wanted to tear someone down because he was told a story by a friend (a story that he never bothered to ask Jon Hammes about).
And some wonder why so many residents of Milwaukee County think the County Board is dysfunctional.