09.17.13

Public Trust & Leadership. Former Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh last Friday submitted his resignation from the Council, just about three months after his departure from the Motor City—his resignation statement was the first public statement since he left City Hall last June in the wake of allegations an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy and the actions by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to strip him of his pay, title, and duties for failing to return to work after being denied medical leave. Mr. Pugh, a former reporter-anchor for WJBK Fox 2, was first elected to the council in 2009; he announced last year that he did not plan to run for re-election this year. In his decision to deny Council President Pugh’s leave, the Emergency Manager’s office stated that Detroit’s City Charter does not cover medical leave for elected officials and the state’s emergency manager law — Public Act 436 — did not empower the Emergency Manager to grant one. In his letter to the media and additional correspondences sent around 3 p.m. Friday to Orr, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey and the council offices, Pugh said he has “accepted an offer for employment elsewhere.” He has not specified what his new job will be or where it will be located. Newly elected City Council president Saunteel Jenkins said Mr. Pugh’s resignation helps the city move forward: “I’m pleased that he chose to bring closure to this issue…Now we can focus on what’s most important, that’s providing services to residents of the city.” Mr. Pugh’s resignation leaves three vacancies to be filled by the voters in November: former President Pro Tem Gary Brown and councilmember Kwame Kenyatta resigned in June. In July, the Emergency Manager issued an executive order suspending the city’s charter provision that required appointments be made to fill the vacancies.

Public Distrust. Warrants unsealed related to the corruption trial related to City Hall in Detroit this week appear to demonstrate that contractor Bobby Ferguson, the close friend and co-defendant of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in the trial, received as much as $84 million in corrupt city contracts that were awarded by Detroit during former Mayor Kilpatrick’s service. Some of that information came via an FBI search warrant that led to the seizure of nearly $700,000. The seizures unveiled how wide and pervasive the corruption and looting might have been, with some of the funds found as far away as Alabama. The FBI warrants, unsealed last Friday in U.S. District Court, demonstrate the size and reach of the loss from Detroit’s coffers as part of the FBI’s search for money, and the new seizure provides a precise total and pinpoint where the money was found. So far, the FBI has seized more than a dozen pieces of construction equipment from Mr. Ferguson and about $4 million — some found in banks in Texas and Alabama, $775,000 in a lockbox stashed behind a clothes dryer, and $261,000 in a hidden wall safe — during a series of raids tied to the City Hall corruption trial and a separate bid-rigging case. Nevertheless, the specific link between the funds and criminal activity remains unclear, because the seizure warrant affidavit establishing probable cause remains sealed in federal court, and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have declined comment. Mr. Ferguson is currently a federal prisoner in Milan with former Mayor Kilpatrick while both men await sentencing next month in the City Hall corruption case. Both face 20 years or more in prison.

Public Safety. According to new FBI statistics released yesterday, Flint and Detroit, Michigan remain the most violent cities in America. The report found that in Flint, Michigan’s seventh-largest city, there were 2,774 violent crimes in 2012, nearly 400 more than 2011’s total of 2,392. Detroit actually recorded a slight reduction in violent crime with 15,011 incidents in 2012, compared to 15,245 in 2011. Detroit realized 600 fewer violent crimes per capita with 2,123 violent crimes per 100,000. In the Motor City, since Police Chief James Craig assumed command last July 1st, the department has deployed more officers to the streets, moved units around, reinstated its gang squad, and focused new efforts to reduce car-jackings. Indeed, since Detroit filed for bankruptcy protection, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has promised to improve city services, including tackling public safety issues and restoring streetlights in high crime areas. In addition, last month, police, churches and social service providers launched a program Craig called a “holistic” approach aimed at stemming gang violence, Operation Ceasefire in the Eastern District, which has generally recorded the most shootings in the city. “We’re telling parolees and probationers: You have a criminal history; we know you have gang affiliations; and we’re going after your group,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said when the program was launched.

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