Despite the arrogant dismissiveness in which state-appointed mouthpiece Bill Nowling greeted news that the city's purchasing officer quit, the recent resignation of Detroit chief procurement officer Andre DuPerry should indeed be cause for worry.
According to a Detroit Free Press, DuPerry handed in his resignation in September and stepped down earlier this month, citing grave concerns over what he described as Orr's "inconsistency and lack of compliance with the competitive bid and contract approval processes."
Responding with the sort of fake tough-guy posturing that has become his trademark, Orr spokesman Nowling downplayed the significance of DuPerry's departure and insulted him as nothing more than a "disgruntled employee" angered because Orr has refused to "do things as they've always been done."
Apparently, to Nowling's way of thinking, simply giving away taxpayer dollars to friends and cronies via no-bid deals -- the controversial and contested PA 436 gives Orr to essentially ignore city laws with regard to the awarding of contracts -- represents some sort of innovative approach to transforming the city. Actually forcing contractors to bid on deals represents that "status quo" way of thinking and, according to Nowling, "It didn't work for 60 years, and we're done with that, and that upsets some people."
Yes, surely we all figured the old way was out way back when hard-line Republican ideologues shoved basically the same EM law down our throats that Michiganders had rejected at the ballot box only months before. After all, who needs the "will of the people?"
And clearly a new age had dawned when, despite Gov. Rick Snyder's claims that he hadn't made a decision on Detroit's financial future, he went out and hired a bankruptcy attorney from the Jones Day law firm to serve as emergency manager. I mean, since when has honesty from a public official ever served the public interest?
Further, who couldn't tell that we'd turned the page on the status quo that Nowling holds in such disdain when Snyder's newly hired bankruptcy attorney promptly turned around and gave Jones Day $3.3 million in public money? Because, y'know, conflict of interest concerns are so new age.
And only embittered liberals like myself can be blind enough to not see how dramatically we flipped the script when Orr named the hateful, odious Gary Brown (the governor's biggest backer during Brown's time on Detroit City Council) as chief compliance officer. I mean, naked cronyism is such a bold, new tool for municipal change that it's a shame that Detroiters hadn't been introduced to its benefits until now.
Bye Bye Status Quo
Yessir, the status quo is over. No more misguided political leaders taking out ill-advised loans to keep cops on the streets and fire trucks running and the pension system solvent, just Orr negotiating bad deals in the best interest of the same banks that swindled us in the first place.
No more police chiefs who get caught in airports with guns or who can't keep their love lives straight, just an uncreative top cop who doesn't have police officer certification and who hauls ass the other way at the sight of carjackers.
No more off-the-cuff rants from loose cannons on the city council, just chief financial officers who have to step down for making racist jokes about shooting Detroiters in hoodies.
No more public tomfoolery at council meetings, just back-room skullduggery, private deals, anonymous slush-fund donors and no-bid contracts approved by a cabal of appointees chosen by a man that the vast majority of Detroiters never voted for to begin with.
And now the man whose job it is to ensure the openness, fairness and integrity of the city's bidding process has walked away from his job on the grounds that Orr and his team, already regarded as above the law, have made a mockery of those concepts.
To hell with Nowling's spin. We should absolutely worry about what DuPerry's resignation says about what goes on inside the EM bubble.
Even if you accept that there has been plenty about Detroit that hasn't worked well in past decades, it seems that the correct response isn't to then diss procurement officers or get rid of bidding regulations -- but to shore up both. And we certainly don't need the mouthpiece for a right-wing businessman trying to fool us into thinking he and his appointees stand against "the status quo."
Because when it comes to monitoring how politicians handle our money, accountability and transparency shouldn't ever be notions that we're "done with."