Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Always trust a man with the star

Bruce Murphy of Milwaukee Magazine looks into the great five-star badge controversy (I commented on the issue in this post) and discovers something interesting:

Bloggers have accused Sheriff David Clarke of spending $30,000 to replace the seven-pointed sheriffs’ badges with five-point stars. Why? Because Clarke has a five-point star tattoo. Is this true? I asked Clarke’s media representative, Kim Brooks.

Of course not, she says. Brooks says Clarke is simply replacing a damaged stock of badges and that replacement is cheaper than repair. Brooks, however, wasn’t able to give me the cost of replacing the badges.

And why five points? “Most sheriff departments use a five-point star,” Brooks notes. As for the tattoo story, she added, it was untrue and showed how inaccurate these blog items were.

Uh huh. So does the sheriff have any tattoos? Yes, Brooks answered, a Dallas Cowboys tattoo.

A sheriff in Wisconsin is wearing a tattoo of a hated enemy of the Green Bay Packers? That may be the real scandal here.

But it’s worth noting: The Cowboy logo is a five-point star.
Of course, his taste in football teams can only raise my opinion of him.

However, there is still not a decent explanation why Clarke has chosen to spend $30,000 to replace the current badges with a five-point star. Taxpayers can reasonably wonder if it was merely to suit the vanity of the sheriff.

One commenter at The National Conversation has tried to make the case that it isn't taxpayer money because the badges are paid for by money from drug case forfeitures. I would remind the commenter that money is fungible, and that money allocated for the unnecessary purchase of badges is money that cannot be used for another function of the sheriff's office.

It also raises the questions of just how much money is in that drug seizure slush fund and how that money is being spent. If there's $30,000 just sitting around waiting to be spent on new badges for everybody, what else is tempting the eye of Milwaukee's sheriff?

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