Latest Incident Shows Detroit City Officials Can be Pretty Clueless

May 31, 2012, 11:47 AM by  Allan Lengel

Leduff Screen Shot 2012 05 29 At 11.35.10 Pm

City of Detroit officials can be pretty pretty clueless.

It’s sad.

I bring this up because of the latest public relations gaffe involving Deputy Fire Commissioner Fred Wheeler, who knocked the microphone out of the hand of Fox2 reporter Charlie LeDuff.

LeDuff was working on a story about the filthy fire houses in the city, some which have raw sewage floating about. He also highlighted the problem with broken equipment.

As he walked toward Wheeler on the streets of Detroit on Tuesday, he shouted out “Deputy Commissioner”, to which Wheeler responded: “You better get the fuck away.”

Public Relations Error #1.

Then when LeDuff started asking questions, Wheeler slapped the microphone out of his hand (pictured to the right).

Error #2.

Now, Mayor Dave Bing knew he had to clean this up.

So he issued a statement saying he was taking the incident seriously and investigating it and would take appropriate reaction. On the plus side, and a big plus at that, Wheeler resigned on Thursday. 

Not bad.  That issue is resolved.

But what’s really terrible (Error #3) is that the city refused -- and simply felt it didn’t have to comment on the bigger story: That the firehouses, as LeDuff suggests, should be condemned.

I called the Fire Commissioner. I called Deputy Commissioner Fred Wheeler. I couldn’t get a hold of them.

I asked the Mayor Bing’s secretary Naomi Patton if the city would comment on the actual report.

She said “no”.

When I asked why, she simply said that LeDuff had never called the city before airing the report.

That’s no excuse not to comment. The mayor or Wheeler or somebody should say something to indicate they actually care about the deplorable conditions at the firehouses.  

What’s it going to take for some of these public officials to realize they work for the taxpayers, that transparency is a good way to run government, and the media is the messenger for the people.

People in Detroit deserve better.

And so do the firefighters who work in some of those engine houses where sewage is leaking.

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