By Meredith Melland Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published May 27, 2024 at 5:01 PM Photography: Trisha Young

The Board of Commissioners for the Social Development Commission met Thursday and continued to discuss the future of the agency that abruptly shut down a month ago.

Board chair Barbara Toles said that the first priority is paying laid-off employees who are owed paychecks but did not reveal when or how SDC will pay employees. 

Experts say that by not paying employees for past work, SDC is in conflict with Wisconsin wage payment laws.

Toles also said that the board is discussing which of SDC’s services and programs to maintain.

The board spent most of the meeting in closed session to discuss personnel and legal issues. 

The meeting was held at the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, 1920 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Since mid-April, the board has been meeting on a weekly basis on Thursdays, instead of its usual monthly schedule. 

1. Paying employees is the first priorty

Toles said that the board is aware that people have questions on the payroll issue and that it is working diligently to address it. 

“That is our first priority: to make sure that our employees that are owed money, that they get paid,” she said. 

The commissioners will share an update as soon as they have it, Toles added.

2. Determining which programs to keep

The board is meeting to determine how to reorganize, rebuild and restore SDC so that it can serve community members facing poverty, Toles said. 

The social service agency’s closing has left a gap in services, including tax preparation, job training and education, for thousands of low-income Milwaukee County residents.

“Now we recognize that in doing that, we’re not talking about bringing back all of the programs that we had, we’re going to bring back some of them,” she said. 

The board is discussing which programs can be maintained so that SDC can be stable and won’t reopen and then close a few months later, Toles said. 

William Sulton, SDC’s attorney, said last week that the board changed its thinking about hiring from a top-down approach, starting with management and supervisory employees. 

“That is no longer the case,” Sulton said. “The board will make decisions on which programs they believe need to be stood up first, and those programs that I believe will be set up first will be fully staffed – top to bottom.” 

On Friday, La Casa de Esperanza announced it will take over SDC’s tax services.

The Internal Revenue Service has directed La Casa to manage the tax services for SDC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clients and resolve outstanding tax returns, according to a news release from La Casa.

Details about the location or hours available for appointments have not been finalized. 

People who used SDC to file their taxes can contact Gina Sanchez, director of the Center for Financial Stability, at (262) 899-6786 or, for more information or to set up an appointment. 

3. High School Equivalency Diploma students graduate at MATC

During the public comment section, Commissioner Marjorie Rucker recognized that SDC’s students in the High School Equivalency Diploma program graduated on Monday at Milwaukee Area Technical College. 

“I just want to show that, despite all, we were still able to fulfill that obligation and make sure that those students were able to walk across the stage on Monday,” Rucker said.

The 39 students had a few weeks of the program left when SDC closed. 

What do you want to know?

Do you have questions you want answered about the SDC? Thoughts you want to share? Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service is here for you. Let Milwaukee NNS know what’s on your mind by emailing or commenting. You can also text through News414, and Milwaukee NNS reporters will work hard to get the answers you deserve.

Devin Blake contributed to this report.