LeDuff: Why Isn't Rampant Corruption a Detroit Election Issue?

October 28, 2021, 11:43 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

FBI raid on city hall | Gabe Leland (left) and Andre Spivey

There's a municipal election in Detroit, but for the life of me, you'd never know it.

A daytime raid on city hall. Bribery convictions of city councilmen. Corruption in the police department. Public money funneled to the mayor's mistress (now wife). 

Mayor Mike Duggan is asking for a third term Tuesday and nary a peep from most of the media on these pressing issues he should be addressing before the election.

Instead of holding the mayor to account, worn-out reporters in Detroit seem to be holding out their hats hoping for employment in the mayor's propaganda department. Either that or a public relations gig with one of the companies feeding at the trough of Hizzoner. 

At least 15 former reporters have been on the mayor's payroll, by my count. Most of those still stuck in the moldering local media outlets don't so much as call for a debate. The Lions' head coach gets more scrutiny. 

(My repsect to the dozen reporters still out there with the guts and gravitas to ferret out the truth.)

Serial scandals

Celia Washington (Photo: LinkedIn photo)

But just look at the news this week. Yet another city official swept up in the federal towing bribery scandal. This time it is the ironically named John F. Kennedy, former supervisor of the Integrity Assurance Unit within Detroit Police Department.

Lt. Kennedy's unit was involved in the internal corruption investigation of Deputy Chief Celia Washington, suspected in 2017 of taking bribes from towing contractor Gasper Fiore in exchange for his preferential treatment on the towing rotation. (Chris Graveline, now in charge of the division that handles such investigations, says two officers with the unit at the time say Kennedy was not involved.)

After months of digging, Kennedy's unit apparently could find nothing on Washington. Maybe that's because Kennedy himself was taking bribes from towers, according to his indictment papers.

The FBI found plenty. She was convicted and sentenced to a year in the federal pen for taking bribes that she insisted were loans she simply forgot to repay.

Well, not exactly

Chief James White

Craig's succcesor, Chief James E. White, issued a statement Wednesday that reads in part: We anticipated this outcome and will continue to cooperate with the FBI in their investigation, which began prior to me leading this department.”

Which is a half-truth. When the Washington scandal broke, White was assistant chief under Craig, and Lt. Kennedy would have reported directly to White.

As for Craig, he would have reported directly to the deputy mayor. And who was the deputy mayor at the time? That was Chief James E. Craig.

That's right. The chief of police reporting directly to himself. And Mayor Duggan responsible for the conundrum because, after all, he appointed Craig deputy.

He should be forced to say something now. Duggan is running for mayor. Craig is running for governor. It's their police department. That should matter to every citizen of Michigan.

JFK wasn't the only one taking envelopes. City councilmembers Gabe Leland and Rev. Andre Spivey both pleaded guilty to pocketing dirty money. In August, the feds raided the offices and homes of councilmembers Scott Benson and Janeé Ayers, both running for re-election this Tuesday. The four couniclmembers constituted Mayor Duggan's voting block. 

As for Duggan, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the FBI continue their years-long probe into the abuse of federal demoliton money. 

More questions

Mayor Mike Duggan (File photo)

Then there is the question of Duggan funneling money to his mistress for her prenatal health program. Then Duggan denying it. Then Duggan's subordinates deleting public documents that confirmed it. The mayor last month married Dr. Sonia Hassan, but he has yet to offer the public an explanation on their business relationship.

Where is the opposition in all this? Supposedly independent political groups in Detroit are in large part supported by the candidates they endorse, according to reporting by my colleague Violet Ikonomova.

One such group, the East Side Slate was paid $20,000 by the Duggan campaign to print election literature after it had endorsed Duggan. Bend over and take the money. Call it a gloryhole endorsement. 

This isn't normal. In New York, the press writes books about shit like this. In Detroit, the press waits for New Yorkers to come to town to write books about shit like this.

And that's not good for any of us, because you can't write a book by Tuesday.

► Support our commentary and reporting by becoming a Deadline Detroit member for as little as $3 per month.

► Listen to Charlie LeDuff's weekly podcast, "The No BS News Hour."

Leave a Comment:

Photo Of The Day