Dane Co. Black Caucus fires back at Sheriff Barrett over jail

Members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors’ Black Caucus fired back hard at Sheriff Kalvin Barrett over the jail consolidation issue.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 11:47 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors’ Black Caucus fired back hard at Sheriff Kalvin Barrett over the jail consolidation issue. Their remarks come two days after Barrett stood alongside three of his predecessors to push his plan – and hours before the entire board will decide whether to take the issue to the voters.

Appalled was the word District 14 Supervisor Anthony Gray used to describe his reaction to Tuesday’s news conference. He and other board members felt personally attacked – and that Barrett was blaming them for holding up the project.

“Sheriff Barrett stood on stage with three white men -- and in the finest tradition of Willie Lynch-- attacked the integrity, the competence, and the fundamental intellect of his colleagues on the Dane County Board,” he continued, adding, “That kind of salvo cannot go unanswered.”

On Tuesday, Barrett was joined by former sheriffs Gary Hamblin, David Mahoney, and Rick Raemisch, during which each of them discussed their experiences in pushing for a new jail. The effort to replace the one at the City County Building was happening more than 20 years ago, Hamblin recounted, accusing the county of kicking the can down the road.

District 6 Supervisor Yogesh Chawla rejected Hamblin’s assessment, saying ‘the message put out there, that the county board is stalling, is false.” Chawla argued the county board had repeatedly signed off on millions and millions of dollars for the project.

Pellebon pointed to a plan for a five-story jail house the board approved in November as an example of the board working to find a compromise solution. Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi, however, rejected the plan, indicating it did not meet the compromise standards. Parisi and Barrett have pushed for a six-story structure, for which the price tag – even after plans for seventh floor were dropped – have risen to between $160 and $175 million. The vote Thursday night would approve $13.5 million in bonds that would fund the initial stages of the project.

Pellebon criticized the referendum as it is currently written for only mentioning the $13.5 million and not the full projected total cost of a new jail.

“The referendum isn’t a question of should we let the public decide,” he argued. “The question is should we give the people inaccurate information to vote upon.”

The meeting to decide whether voters will be asked to approve those initial bonds is on Thursday night’s agenda. NBC15 News will have a crew at the meeting and will follow up on the board’s decision.

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