|Letter Concerning Reimbursement of Chief Koval|
Tuesday April 18, 2017
Dear Mayor Soglin and Members of the Madison Common Council,
We are writing in regards to file 46571, Authorizing the City to Reimburse Legal Fees to Chief Michael C. Koval, item #91 on your agenda this evening.
On March 14, 2017, the Madison Board of Police and Fire Commissioners found that Madison Police Chief Michael Koval “engaged in misconduct by violating applicable standards of conduct”. (Consolidated Decision and Order, page 1.) Chief Koval was found in violation of department regulations for inappropriately speaking to the grandmother of Tony Robinson, a victim of a police shooting. The PFC further wrote, “[W]e expected our Police Chief, as the leader of the Department to serve as an example for the entire Department, and always be beyond reproach no matter how frustrated or how harassed he or she may feel. [Chief Koval] failed in this instance.” (Consolidated Decision and Order, page 3.)
For YWCA Madison and many in the greater Madison community, we interpret this decision to mean that Chief Koval was found in violation of the city’s code of conduct. This decision is more than symbolic; it illustrates that no one, even our Police Chief, is above the law. The decision could also be read as an olive branch, noting that Chief Koval took responsibility for actions by publically apologizing.
We do not interpret this decision as one in which Chief Koval prevailed. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “prevail” to mean “to triumph or succeed”. While Chief Koval did not face discipline, we do not interpret the decision – and in particular the quoted language above – to mean that the chief triumphed or succeeded.
Nevertheless, after saying all of this, we understand the difficult position you are in due to the final sentence of the PFC decision. The PFC concludes, in its order, “On the entire record in these proceedings, including the forgoing the Statements of Charges in these matters are each dismissed, with prejudice.” (Consolidated Decision and Order, page 5.) This conclusion is contradictory. On one hand, the PFC finds Chief Koval in violation of department conduct. On the other hand, it ends its decision by dismissing the charges. These two actions appear incongruous, not only to us but to City Attorney Michael May who points out this discrepancy in his memo accompanying this resolution.
We understand this puts you, our elected leaders who promise to follow and honor the law including most importantly city law and policy, in a difficult position of having to decipher this decision. Your city attorney’s memo concludes that you must side with Chief Koval and reimburse him for his legal fees. However, we are struggling to understand why he, and you, draw this conclusion. If the PFC decision is ambiguous, we then request that you return to the PFC or appeal through the appropriate channels to get clarification, not suppose one outcome over another. The city’s payment of Chief Koval’s legal fees feels equivalent to a determination that Chief Koval prevailed in the case. But, through reviewing key parts of the decision, it clearly does not read that way. Regardless of punishment, Chief Koval violated city code and even personally admitted to doing so.
We request that you ask the PFC to clarify its decision, appeal the PFC decision, or go through whatever appropriate process is available to you to get clarification, instead of concluding something that seems contradictory to the decision and hurts the community members who were injured by Chief Koval’s remarks.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or Carousel Bayrd, our Policy and Partnership Coordinator, at (608) 395-2196.
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