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Milwaukee DNC host committee investigating leaders

Fiserv Arena in Milwaukee, site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Pepsiwithcoke/Wikimedia Commons/UPI
Fiserv Arena in Milwaukee, site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Pepsiwithcoke/Wikimedia Commons/UPI

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Two leaders of the organizing committee for this summer's Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee were under investigation Tuesday for allegedly creating a toxic work environment.

Liz Gilbert, president of the 2020 Milwaukee Host Committee, and chief of staff Adam Alonso are the subjects of an investigation by the organization's board of directors over "concerns about the work environment," according to a letter to staff members obtained by the Milwaukee Journal.

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Gilbert has been barred from the host committee's offices and "will not have direct contact with staff" during the probe while Alonso has been placed on administrative leave, the letter said.

Two unnamed Wisconsin political veterans told the newspaper that Gilbert and Alonso -- who have deep ties to the state Democratic Party in New Jersey -- had created a toxic office culture marked by mismanagement and power struggles.

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The incident comes less than six months before Milwaukee is scheduled to host the convention July 13-16. The nonprofit host committee's job is to raise $70 million to stage the event and recruit 15,000 volunteers -- it is separate from the Democratic National Convention Committee, which runs the convention itself, but DNC officials said they supported the move.

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"The Democratic Party is firm in our belief that every person deserves to feel safe and respected at their place of work and we will always take seriously claims of bullying and workplace harassment," said DNC Chief Executive Joe Solomonese. "The claims made by employees of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee present an unacceptable and upsetting environment."

The committee's board of directors, he said, "is moving forward with a plan to restore an office culture that aligns with the values and expectations of our party."

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Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who serves as co-chairman of the host committee, also supported the move, a spokesman said.

Alonso is also the subject of similar complaints in New Jersey. The former deputy chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was accused by fellow former Murphy campaign aide Julie Roginsky of contributing to a "toxic work environment" marred by misogyny.

"To be clear, Julie has not alleged that I engaged in any such behavior," Alonso told the Journal. "Regarding her allegations against a colleague of ours, those were investigated by campaign counsel, and our colleague apologized."

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