Nine Milwaukee County supervisors are demanding an apology from County Executive Chris Abele for remarks made by his spokesman last week. Brendan Conway, Abele’s media relations official, characterized the tone of a letter written by Madam Chair Marina Dimitrijevic as something out of “Mean Girls.” Although I got a kick out of it, Dimitrijevic was not amused.
Mean Girls is a pop-culture film depicting a group of catty, backstabbing high-school girls that sabotage each other for a chance to become relevant. Conway's remark was in response to a hubristic note Dimitrijevic wrote to the County Executive letting him know she's not happy about the Johnny Thomas sting - in case he didn't already know. She wrote:
“It is in your interest that Supervisors believe that the individuals selected to deliver your fiscal message and to respond to legislative inquiries have a history of truthfulness with elected officials.”
Aside from lacking tact and subtleness, the note implied that the County Board should have some say in who Abele chooses to represent his office on fiscal matters Of course, Dimitrijevic didn’t mention Farley by name, but that’s where the mean girl’s comment comes into play. In the film showcases implicatures - saying one thing, but meaning another.
Oddly, some members of the Board are corralling behind Madam Chair, demanding an apology - which in all honesty have about a snowball’s chance in hell of getting. Their letter reads:
"The sexism inherent in Conway's remark is blatant, irresponsible, inappropriate and disrespectful," the supervisors wrote. Use of the term "girls" was also a put-down, suggesting Dimitrijevic was "diminutive and juvenile."
Mind you, feminism is an important issue to Madam Chair Dimitrijevic, except when it comes to endorsing political candidates. During a Milwaukee County Board spring primary, Dimitrijevic passed up endorsing Democrat Tracey Corder - a social worker with a history of helping battered women - for a candidate steeped in allegations of domestic abuse.
Describing Lamar (Penny) Amos Sikora's past as "checkered" is a delicate way to describe it. He had a variety of legal problems, including charges of spousal battery, disorderly conduct, unemployment fraud, and restraining orders from his estranged wife. When asked to explain an unusual endorsement, Dimitrijevic said that people deserve second chances. Indeed they do. A man with a domestic abuse record gets a second chance, but a reputable spokesman making an innocuous reference to a pop-culture film is called to the carpet.
Abele described Dimitrijevic's demand as a “distraction.” As usual, he was being too polite.
Instead of picking public fights with the County Executive, supervisors should focus on preparing for the budget at hand and try not to get in the way of the grown ups.