Politics

LeDuff: Trump By Another Name at Detroit City Hall


October 03, 2019, 11:10 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

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(Photo illustration: Deadline Detroit)

 

Remember what happened when it was discovered that Donald Trump's personal lawyer paid hush money to a porn star to keep her mouth shut about the president's bedside manner? That lawyer, Michael Cohen is doing prison time for, among other things, violating campaign finance law.

Meanwhile, here in Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan is being investigated by the city's Inspector General for steering money and city resources to his girlfriend's maternal health project. When the press asked to inspect records regarding the arrangement, Duggan's staffers deleted some of them.

Those records have since been recovered and are now available on the city's website for free. Still, the city is demanding $222,667 to release 400,000 other pages of documents to the press. 

A ridiculous abuse of the state's Freedom of Information law. Imagine if this were Trump trying to erase his fingerprints. His administration tried to keep the the Ukraine transcripts and whistleblower complaint under wraps. And now he's got an impeachment inquiry.

But this isn't Washington. This is Detroit, a one-party machine town where this sort of cover up and stonewalling is considered normal. And we are all the poorer for it.

Why a city law department detour?

It was my friends at the Detroit Free Press who asked to see those records of the office of the Detroit Inspector General – who's supposedly conducting an independent investigation of Duggan and his girlfriend's program. Oddly, the record request had to first to go through the mayor's law department.

“Based on information provided by the OIG … release of the requested information and/or record at this time would: 1) paint a biased picture without any context; 2) unfairly prejudice innocent employees and individuals who are identified in the records; and 3) be taken out of context to sensationalize certain aspects of the records and mislead the public,” the Detroit law department wrote to the paper.

So now they're moonlighting as editors I guess.

This is the same Office of Inspector General -- though a different Inspector General -- who not too long ago conducted an investigation into secret meetings between preferred demolition contractors who contributed to Duggan and the mayor's representatives about a multi-million dollar project.

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U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts (Photo: Michigan Bar Association)

That meeting has led to a wide ranging federal corruption probe that has hounded the mayor's prized program. The IG found that while the secret meeting looked bad, there was nothing illegal to it since there is no written law forbidding secret pre-bid meetings...even though there are.

Lately, in federal court, some low-level skunks have been sent off to prison in the demolition mess, including Aradondo Haskins, a former city official who tooks bribes from a contractor while rigging bids to tear down homes. He got one year in prison.

"The actions of Mr. Haskins and others are nothing less than a complete betrayal of the public trust," U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said at sentencing late last month. "No way on earth could this conduct be described as aberrant."

Shortly before that, the judge sentenced former demolition company employee Anthony Daguanno to 12 months for his crooked role in the city's program. He supposedly netted $372,000 in bribes and kickbacks.  

What If Trump did this?

Federal judges. Grand Juries. Low-level skunks. Imagine if this were Trump.

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James Craig (Deadline Detroit file photo)

And now we get the news this week that Detroit is once again the most violent city in America. That's a big deal, a barometer of what is truly going on in the Motor City and what progress, if any, we're making. And yet, nearly every local news organization ignored the story.

Consider that we've been told year after year by Police Chief James E. Craig that crime in the city was falling at record levels. But when you look at the FBI's numbers, violent crime today is exactly what it was in 2014, his first full year as chief. The needle hasn't moved.

Imagine if this were Washington, and the director of the FBI was faking crime numbers. Imagine if the deputy director of the FBI was sent to prison for accepting bribes. Imagine if the FBI organized crime task force was caught not once – but twice – stealing drugs and money from the Mexican drug cartel. But that's what happened in the Detroit police department under Chief Craig.

Former FBI Director James Comey got canned for less. And Trump got a two-year obstruction of justice investigation for it.

And what do we get in Detroit? Ribbon cuttings and bills for $222,667.

Check out Charlie LeDuff's weekly podcast, The No BS News Hour.



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Photo Of The Day 

Potd_potd_by_bill_mcgraw__former_good_shepherd_catholic_church__1265_parkview_351 The former Annunciation Catholic Church at 1265 Parkview St. is now a Library Street Collective art gallery in Detroit’s East Village.

By: Bill McGraw (@mcgraw_bill)