Author's note: A notable commentator called me a few months ago, outraged by the mayor's increasingly bloated administration. The person asked me to look into it, since apparently that individual didn't have the courage to do so. Here are my findings.
It's a veritable champagne party inside Detroit city hall's executive suites.
The size of Mayor Mike Duggan's administration and the salaries paid to his 500+ appointees have ballooned to outrageous proportions for a recently bankrupt city.
According to records obtained by Deadline Detroit under the Freedom of Information Act, about 12 dozen people in the Duggan administration earn six-figure salaries that average $142,000 a year.
That comes to $20 million a year – or the equivalent of 1 percent of Detroit's total budget – for just 140 individuals. Good work, if you can get it. Good work if you know the right people.
And this tally does not include benefits, personal service contractors, lawyers on retainer, grants for girlfriend's pet projects, or bloated agencies like the Detroit Land Bank, also controlled by Hizzoner. (Word has it employees there are in line for tasty raises.)
As a comparison, Mayor Dave Bing had just a dozen appointees earning above $100,000 before the city filed for bankruptcy.
If Detroit was really doing as well as the administration would have you believe, who would give a rip? What's a few million bucks? Everyone expects a little graft and a little grease in municipal politics.
But what makes the profligate salaries truly obscene is what Detroit really is outside the silk-stocking corridor of Downtown and Midtown.
Yes, there are two Detroits
A dozen shootings in a 10-hour period on July 4 alone, and 33 shootings over the long holiday weekend, five of them fatal. Cops, medics and firefighters continue to head for the suburbs since pay and benefits are so measly.
Retirees are forced to spend their pensions on colostomy bags, since the bankruptcy settlement. Response times to emergency calls are routinely fudged, and a continual “No Units Available” mantra is broadcast across the city.
Demolitions costs have gotten so high that two federal grand juries have been convened. We had a serial killer running around, who you might remember was not a serial killer, until he was a serial killer. And now the alleged serial killer, strangely enough, has yet to be charged with a serial killing.
Detroit is a city where nearly half the adult population does not have a job. Detroit is a city where the median income for an entire family is $26,000. Detroit, the city where 650,000 people live, is the most violent in the United States.
A matter of priorities
This is a city where the machine pays itself handsomely, pumps out fake statistics to justify it, borrows money at junk-bond rates for sweetheart deals to developers and leaves the tax burden to the poorest urban dwellers in America. And business owners who don't play ball with the machine? They lose out to their competitors who do play.
I know, I know -- shut up, LeDuff.
Detroit is doing great, you say. Look at all the new jobs, you tell me.
Yes, but most of those “new” jobs went to suburbanites whose companies relocated to Detroit from the metro region to dodge taxes there.
In fact, Detroit residents saw 5,000 jobs evaporate over the past five years, according to one study.
In this “other” city, 14,000 families are in danger of losing their homes to tax foreclosure. Water shutoffs continue as temperatures rise.
Downtown, the hogs are getting fat. In the neighborhoods, the wolves are gaunt, and teeth are starting to bare.
Really, the best money can buy?
But we need to pay competitive salaries to attract the best of the best, goes the argument from City Hall.
John Roach, the mayor's $126,863 mouthpiece, issued a statement Wednesday night:
The City of Detroit has balanced every budget since the Mayor took office, gotten out of state financial oversight and run annual budget surpluses. The list you received from your FOIA request shows employees who are defined as appointees because they are not union members or civil servants. Many of them are not appointed by the Mayor.
Roach goes on to note that 14 people identified by the city as mayoral appointees are actually employees of the Department of Homeland Security, and some city positions are grant funded.
Nevertheless, the Mayor has assembled a full-blown propaganda platoon humping his message. They include former reporters, producers and videographers who used to cover the mayor and city hall.
These media types number about a dozen by my count. Rochelle Riley, the former Free Press columnist, is the latest. She will earn $134,441 as the newly created director of arts and culture.
What qualifications does Riley have for her new job? Beats me? But she is a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame!
Let's look at some of the other appointees with whom Hizzoner has surrounded himself and paid handsomely.
- David Manardo, who was intimately involved in the mayor's demolition program, which is now the subject of a long running federal corruption probe, earns $231,531 per year, according to the city records.
- David Massaron, the city's chief financial officer, earns $187,305. What is his financial experience? He was a lawyer who put the financing together for the new Flint water system. And you know how that turned out.
- Arthur Jemison earns a cool $184,400 as the city's chief of services and infrastructure, who oversaw the Detroit's use of federal funds to help entrepreneurs. That program is frozen and under federal review.
- Police Chief James Craig is the highest-paid appointee at $254,447 – about the same as the superintendent of police in Chicago, a city with four times as many residents as Detroit.
That doesn't stop him from stacking the organization at the top. According to city records, Craig has three assistant chiefs and five deputy chiefs, all appointed.
Collectively, Craig's eight top underlings average salary is $137,000 per year. Though Craig continually claims crime to be falling at record levels (a claim that our analysis shows to be suspect), the chief found it necessary to launch a “Check Yourself, Stop The Violence” public relations campaign a few weeks ago after a barrage of shootings began the summer.
The campaign seems to be working, that is, if people take it literally. Within six hours of rolling-out “Check Yourself,” at least five people were checked into the hospital with gunshot wounds; at least two others checked into the county morgue.