The city of Detroit has had it's share of bad press over the last few years. It's been front and center stage to the American auto meltdown. Home values in the area have plummeted. Unemployment here leads the country. It has been in the top tier of foreclosure rates for what seems like forever. The school system was shown to be one of the worst run and the lowest performing in the country.
In other words, it's been a mess.
I don't live in the city but am a metro Detroiter.
In spite of all that, I still love the area I'm from.
The biggest stain, in my opinion, on Detroit's reputation was not any of the things I mentioned above. It was the behaviors and actions of the former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick was the ‘hip-hop' mayor, elected as a young guy with great fanfare earlier in the decade. He rolled in wearing diamond earrings and making it known that he was a fresh face with fresh ideas. He was young, vibrant, and energetic, and in those ways represented exactly the direction Detroit wanted to go to turn things around.
Unfortunately, when it was all said and done, he turned out to be nothing but a crook. He abused his office and the power that came along with it.
Among the alleged incidents:
- A party at the city-owned mayors residence that featured strippers
- 24×7 security detail for him and his family that cost the city millions
- Purchase of city vechiles for use by his family
- Firing of the Detroit chief of police for disagreeing with him
- An affair with one of his staffers while both were married
- Misuse of city property and funds tied to his affair
- Involvement in bribery cases
It goes on but that is a list of things that surrounded him. What led to his removal from office and jail time was that he used city owned Blackberry's to send and receive tens of thousands of text messages that proved his involvement in many of the items listed above. Because it was city owned property, the messages were released to the public record.
Eventually he stepped down, served a token jail sentence, and left the state.
One of the items of his settlement was that he was to pay the city of Detroit restitution for money that he mis-used and for the cost of investigating the various things surrounding this. Once he left Detroit, he claimed that he could not make these payments, while moving into a swanky mansion, paying for plastic surgery for his wife (who for whatever reason stayed with him), and making other massive expenses.
The judge, thankfully, didn't buy it. In fact, the judge was so angered that he ordered Kilpatrick to move up a big chunk of his payments. Kilpatrick pled poverty (from behind the doors of his 5,000+ square foot rental).
So, when a $75,000 payment was due last week, did Kilpatrick make the payment? No. He didn't pay up a penny, claiming that he ‘didn't have the money'.
The part that amazed me, though, is that $40,000, or just over half, was paid on his behalf by supporters and private donors.
That's right. This guy used the city property and bank accounts like it was his own for the taking, admitted guilt on many accounts, agreed to pay restitution, then threw it back in the face of everyone by living like a king while claiming poverty, and yet there are still people willing to open up their checkbooks to the tune of $40,000?
I don't get it.
My guess is that these are people that he could have been involved in ‘shady' deals with that are afraid that Kilpatrick could turn on. That's just a hunch, but would it really be too far a stretch?
Did I mention that there is a federal investigation into his dealings, with the possibility that he was bribing companies to get awarded city contracts while he was mayor? He could possibly be charged in a RICO (rackateering) suit, which is the same type of suit that often brings down organized crime families.
Sounds like he got $40,000 in hush money if you ask my opinion.
The saga will no doubt continue to play out. As much as I want to see this guy punished for his criminal activities and his blatant disregard for every citizen that he was entrusted to represent, I hate seeing the further blemishes that this brings upon the city and surrounding region.
But I still can't get over the fact that there are people out there willingly giving this idiot money. Unbelievable.