A committee charged with reviewing the Madison Police Department gained a new member Tuesday following a controversial vote on a mayoral appointment.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway appointed Gregory Gelembiuk to the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee, which was formed in 2015 following the police shooting death of Tony Robinson.
Gelembiuk, who was not at the meeting, has actively attended ad hoc committee meetings and is a member of the Community Response Team, a group of Madison citizens working to address policing and public safety issues that formed following the officer-involved shooting of Paul Heenan in 2012. The ad hoc committee unanimously approved his appointment.
"I am a scientist and, as such, believe strongly in evidence-based practices. A commitment to truth is one of my defining values, and that requires careful analysis and awareness of biases, including one's own," Gelembiuk said in a statement after the meeting. "I also believe in a collaborative approach, and am open to speaking with anyone interested, including those alders who did not support my appointment."
Some alders raised concerns about how Gelembiuk’s appointment might affect the results of the final ad hoc committee report.
“I continue to hold the integrity of the final document and not have it skewed from public acceptance of any of the recommendations based upon one appointment,” Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, said.
However, the work of the committee is almost complete. The citizen-led ad hoc committee has been working on a final report to the City Council that will include its findings on the MPD’s policies, procedures, culture and training. Last week, the City Council approved extending the deadline — the third time it has done so — to Sept. 3.
"Only a few decisions remain to be made on recommendations, then the report writing must be completed," Gelembiuk said. "So at this point, I do not anticipate my appointment to have a major impact on the recommendations."
Harrington-McKinney voted to send the appointment of Gelembiuk back to the mayor’s office, along with Alds. Syed Abbas, District 12; Samba Baldeh, District 17; Sheri Carter, District 14; Zachary Henak, District 10; and Paul Skidmore, District 9. Ald. Donna Moreland, District 7, abstained from voting.
Ultimately, the City Council voted 13-6, with one abstention, to approve a total of four committee appointments, including Gelembiuk.
Skidmore referenced past instances where he felt Gelembiuk disrespected city staff. City Attorney Michael May also noted one incident where he said Gelembiuk disparaged an assistant city attorney's work.
“His behavior toward many, including alders who disagreed with him, was less than courteous, less than civil and that concerns me greatly,” Skidmore said.
However, Gelembiuk said May misremembered the event.
Also last week, the City Council approved changing the number of committee members from 15 to 13. The committee had been operating with vacancies, including the former chair and now Ald. Christian Albouras, District 20, and has struggled to make quorum.