Bankole Thompson on Gabe Leland: Time to leave Detroit City Council

July 30, 2020, 9:58 AM

Waiting for the wheels of justice to turn is one thing, but leaving an indicted official in office is something else, Detroit News columnist Bankole Thompson says of Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland.

Leland was indicted on bribery corruption charges in 2018 by the federal government for allegedly demanding payment from a local business man in exchange for favors. He's now facing a new misconduct charge from prosecutors in Monroe County.

But his legal woes don’t seem to be a problem at all in City Hall. ... Hiding behind the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the mayor and council are holding off any calls for Leland’s resignation.

Leland should have his day in court and should be considered innocent until the court decides otherwise. But presumption of innocence has nothing to do with calling on him to resign immediately to spare the council further disgrace and embarrassment, especially after the city's own past experiences with public corruption.

Bankole Thompson and Gabe Leland

Just one of Leland's eight colleagues replied to the editorial page columnist's questions about his status. "Detroit City Council as a body has not discussed the federal allegations of corruption against member Leland and what steps the body would take," James Tate tells the journalist.

That's "disturbing and very revelaing," writes Thomspon, a former Michigan Chronicle editor (2006-15).

His [Tate's] remarks reflect a certain kind of unacceptable thinking that it is OK for any indicted public official to continue to hold office and conduct business as usual while allegations of corruption and bribery hang over their head. That kind of mindset undermines public trust in democratic institutions like the City Council, whose members should be held to a higher level of public accountability. ...

[Mayor Mike] Duggan is adopting the same neutrality stance on Leland, who recently voted in favor of the mayor’s $250-million bond proposal. ...

When a sitting member of any public body is accused of corruption by authorities, it is ... a crisis of confidence in public leadership that must be dealt with responsibly to advance the public good by calling on the individual to resign.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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