Detroit’s infamous Kilpatrick Dynasty faces a test today as Michigan voters go to the polls to select nominees for the fall general election. Amid the light turnout, apathy and summer malaise, the Dynasty’s continued existence as a national power remains unclear. A poll last week by the Detroit News indicates Mrs. Kilpatrick, the Mayor’s mother and enabler, has a large disapproval rating and only the support of a third of the electorate. If her challengers ultimately fail It wasn’t for lack of trying. Former state Representative Mary Waters and State Senator Martha Scott did the best they could in the short time that they had to shed some light on the shady dealings of Detroit’s first family of sleaze and hold them accountable.
THE FAMILY THAT PREYS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER
In the aftermath of the massive firestorm that erupted when Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was found to have lied under oath in connection with illegally firing several police officers on his security detail and a deputy police chief to cover up his infidelity with his Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, other questionable acts of abuse of power and malfeasance came to light. No matter the allegation alleged: perjury, obstruction of justice, misappropriation of public funds, nepotism, questionable no-bid contracts, and even murder, the Kilpatricks remain unified in their efforts to maintain a stranglehold on power.
TAMARA GREENE-CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT MURDER?
A $150 million dollar lawsuit was filed this spring by Jonathan Bond and his Father, Ernest Flagg against the City of Detroit and Kwame Kilpatrick in the unresolved death of stripper Tamara Greene, 27, who was gunned down in a hail of bullets after allegedly providing the “entertainment” at a never-proven party at Mannoogian Mansion sometime in the fall of 2002. What was believed to be an urban legend has proven to have some legitimacy after a retired clerical employee of the police department came forward to say that she had seen the police report in the incident and a police officer came forward to allege that he believed Ms. Greene was deliberately killed by law enforcement at the behest of the Mayor and that they covered it up.
BERNARD KILPATRICK-THE GODFATHER
The Mayor’s father and Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick’s ex-husband were Wayne County’s premier Black power couple back in the day when she was a member of the Michigan House of Representatives and he served on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners. Despite the dissolution of their union, they remain close to this day and their joint project, Kwame, is the apple of their eyes. Mr. Bernard used to eclipse his ex-wife in power and prestige before her election to congress due to his long service as Chief of Staff and Deputy to the Wayne County Executive .
I believe that it was he, more than any other single individual, that led to former County Executive Ed McNamara’s pivotal endorsement of Kwame’s bid for Mayor. McNamara’s endorsement was crucial to almost everyone in statewide politics and guided many high profile elected officials, like Governor Jennifer Granholm, to victory.
Carolyn Kilpatrick has been a vocal booster of her son’s political career, no matter her sons failings as a public servant, husband and father. She serves as the more public face of the dynasty, but I believe that Mr. Bernard’s quiet counsel is the more influential because he seems to be the offstage presence directing Kwame’s disastrous Mayoralty from behind the scenes.
It was revealed early last month that there is a federal investigation of a questionable $47 million dollar sludge contract with Synagro Technologies, a contract approved in divided 5-4 vote by the city council currently at war with his son. Reports confirmed that Federal officials placed a wiretap on Mr. Bernard’s home and cell phones late last year and the taps ended this spring. Moreover, several members of the City Council and persons associated with Synagro also had taps placed.
After his 2002 retirement from the Wayne County Executive’s office, Mr. Bernard opened a lobbying firm he named Maestro Associates LLC in honor of his late father, James Kilpatrick, who was called “Maestro”and was eulogized as “the conductor of the family.” I believe those duties have fallen to Mr. Bernard now and his advice and counsel have run his son and protege, and the city of Detroit, off the rails.
Maestro Associates, according to published reports, “provide(s) information to help businesses work with the state, county and local governments. Mr. Bernard told the media that “When you’re working in government for 20 years, you get ideas on how to help businesses grow.” It is clear that federal investigators believe that some of those ideas include a pay-to-play mentality in government contracting.
The Mayor’s campaign finance records show he paid more than $170,000 for “consulting” services to Michael Tardiff and Mr. Bernard. Again, according to published reports, the Feds bum rushed Tardiff to detail the relationship between Mr. Bernard and Synagro minority subcontractor, Rayford Johnson. It isn’t clear what Kwame is paying daddy for.
However, what is clear is that Synargro Technology, through its minority subcontractor, Rayford Jackson, funneled a series of campaign contributions to most of the Detroit City Council in what seems to be a not-to-slick effort to smooth the path of approval for their multi-billion dollar deal. Jackson, who Mr. Bernard acknowleges knowing, isn’t cooperating with federal investigators.
Mr. Bernard is also implicated in another investigation involving criminal tax evasion and fraud. Jon Rutherford, head of a Detroit homeless shelter, paid Mr. Bernard in excess of $100,000 for work federal investigators can find no evidence of. Rutherford was indicted in 2006 “for diverting money from his company to make $750,000 in illegal campaign contributions and dodging taxes on $2 million in income.”
Rutherford contributed to both Kwame’s campaign’s and that of Governor Granholm, who state law has invested with the authority to remove Kilpatrick from office for misconduct. She is currently considering the request from Detroit’s city council to remove the mayor from office.
According to the Associated Press, “The county’s state-court lawsuit against Rutherford and his treasurer and co-defendant Judith Bugaiski says they embezzled and stole. Rutherford and Bugaiski have pleaded not guilty in the criminal case and deny wrongdoing in the civil case.” Rutherford’s company had a $22.7 million dollar contract with the Detroit-Wayne County Mental Health Agency, an organization that Mr. Bernard was appointed to Chair by his son the Mayor. Mr. Bernard was subpoenaed in the case but asserted his 5th Amendment rights.
Lost in the shuffle for lucrative contracts and consulting fees are the homeless and mentally ill that the agency is supposed to serve and the taxpayers of Detroit.
NEPOTISM RUN AMUCK
While nightmarish visions of crooked contracts dance in the heads of the beleaguered citizens of Detroit, Kilpatrick, Inc is busy hiring its various and sundry kith and kin to public jobs at exorbitant wages while justifying the layoffs of over 4000 city employees and draconian cuts to city services. The Detroit Free Press reported that “On average, longtime appointees within the mayor’s office with familly or personal connections to the mayor or (Christine) Beatty saw a 36% salary jump from 2002 to 2007.”
Among those Kwame hired are his uncle Ray Cheeks, at a salary of $89,000. Mr. Cheeks managed the neighborhood city halls and apparently was oblivious or looked the other way while his deputy misappropriated $146,000. Mr. Cheeks subsequently left the job and was promoted to executive assistant to the mayor at a salary of $93,000. To the vacant position, Kwame appointed another relative, his cousin Akua Bragg-Porter. Not content to stop there, he hired his cousin and Mr. Cheeks’ daughter Nneka as an assistant to the Mayor making $50,500. She, too, was subsequently promoted to the position of executive assistant to the mayor and received a boost to $62,025.
Both Mr. Cheeks and his daughter reported on resumes obtained by the Detroit Free Press that they exaggerated their educations. Mr. Cheeks reported that he had graduated from Western Michigan State and his daughter reported that she had attended Michigan State. Neither claim was substantiated upon further investigation. During this entire period, regular rank and file city employees received 2% raises in 2003 and 2004.
AYANNA AND CARLITA KILPATRICK’s Next Vision Foundation Hustle
The Mayor’s Sister is President and CEO of the Next Vision Foundation, a fraudulent scholarship and piggy bank slush fund supposedly dedicated to the children in Detroit’s dismal public schools. According to a class action lawsuit filed against the foundation, more than half of the $717,000 raised in 2002 and 2003 went to pay for the salary of the President and CEO. Not to be left out, Mrs. Carlita Kilpatrick, the mayors wife, got her slice of the pie as a part-time event planner.
According to the attorney filing the lawsuit. “They took money from a scholarship fund that was purported to be given money to high school students for their education and gave it to themselves for salaries. We see that as really a breach of trust on the Detroit students. We believe that that money should be reimbursed by Kwame Kilpatrick to the Detroit school students.”
FACING THE MUSIC
The enormous sense of entitlement and the shameless corruption of the Kilpatrick family is evident in Carolyn Kilpatrick’s continued defense of her son’s indefensible behavior. The fact that she is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus is even more embarrassing. It is my sincere prayer that voters send this family a message that public officials shouldn’t be for sale and that honesty and the public good still mean something.
Although initially in third place, Carolyn Kilpatrick pulled off a win by the skin of her corrupt teeth. This victory is further evidence that the family that preys together, stays together and will live on to cynically exploit the people of Detroit for another day.