Detroit Inspector General Ellen Ha is responding to Mayor Mike Duggan's failure to adopt recommendations issued by her office this week as part of a damning report that found he gave preferential treatment to a prenatal program run by a rumored romantic partner and three top officials ordered emails related to the program deleted.
Ha's report recommended discipline for Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley, Office of Development and Grants Director Ryan Friedrichs and his deputy, Sirene Abou-Chakra. The order to delete emails, her office found, went from Wiley, through the two officials, to two staffers involved in day-to-day coordination with the program, Make Your Date.
On Tuesday, Duggan said he would not punish any of them, only require they undergo training in document retention.
In an opinion published Friday in the Free Press, Ha writes that her office — established to serve as a government watchdog in the wake of the Kilpatrick scandal — cannot be as effective without "the sound endorsement of our recommendations from our government." She does not name Duggan in the piece, but her spokesman confirmed the statement pertains to his case as well as separate cases involving the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. The board too has not rendered discipline as recommended, including by a report issued last week that found it manipulated hiring procedures mandated by the city charter.
Her statement goes on:
More importantly, when an agency that is charged to ensure honesty and integrity in city government cannot serve its full purpose, the result is erosion of public trust. We take no pleasure in recommending discipline and we do not dictate what measured discipline should be issued against the public servant. That is specified in the city’s policies and procedures.
The inspector general's office currently has several published reports which call for measured discipline against certain employees. While we are mindful of management’s reluctance to discipline hard-working employees who may have meant well, when discipline does not match the wrong-doings, it can easily be viewed as favoritism. Good people can make well-intended decisions that impact the public’s ability to trust those who govern the city. Not one of us is perfect but actions have consequences.
Rules and discipline should apply universally and equally to all employees regardless of the position they hold. Like debarment, the purpose of discipline is not only to punish, but to serve as deterrence. Management must set the tone and let the public know that what is wrong is simply wrong regardless of intent. The City of Detroit cannot afford to go back where darkness lingers, where friends, family, and certain favored people are treated differently.
Mayoral spokesman John Roach issued a statement in response to the column:
We take every report of the OIG very seriously. Anytime the OIG finds that any city employee violated the charter or anytime the OIG makes a finding that an employee violated any city ordinance, policy, or rule, that employee is disciplined appropriately.