MAY 14, 2008
Fearing racial tensions, a Democrat governor refuses to act on a city council’s plea to remove its corrupt mayor amid a series of scandals and multiple felony charges.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is a white woman and the indicted mayor, Detroit’s Kwame Kilpatrick, is a black man still highly popular among constituents in his mostly black city.
Political insiders say Granholm, a former federal prosecutor who is also popular among the state’s black residents, would create a strong political backlash if she exercised her authority to remove Kilpatrick. So she refuses to take action, ignoring pleas from local lawmakers who say they can no longer work with the mayor.
The point is that, race aside, Kilpatrick has been a disgrace to the city since he took over six years ago and his colleagues—including blacks—on the council want him out. In fact, they have voted three times to oust him but he has refused to leave. This week the desperate council turned to the governor, who has authority under state law to remove the scandal-plagued mayor.
In March Detroit’s self-described “Hip-Hop’ mayor was charged with numerous felonies, including perjury, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. Kilpatrick lied under oath to cover an extramarital affair with a city staffer during a police whistleblower trail last year.
He subsequently masterminded a secret multi million-dollar settlement with the officers, who had been fired for raising questions about his security team which could have led them to discover the affair. The city paid the wronged officers $8.4 million and covered up the mess by keeping details of the arrangement secret even though tax dollars were spent.
It was just the latest of many scandals since Kilpatrick became mayor in 2002. He spent a great deal of his first term partying with strippers at the mayor’s mansion and got busted for charging more than $210,000 on his city-issued credit card for personal travel, meals and entertainment.
Kilpatrick also used $25,000 of public funds to lease a fancy sports utility vehicle for his wife at a time when Detroit’s $230 million budge deficit forced the elimination of 3,000 city jobs and cuts in bus service.
The outlaw mayor also gave companies owned by his good friend at least $45 million worth of city contracts and he assured his buddy sealed the deals by delivering bid strategies and sensitive information through his chief of staff and mistress, Christine Beatty. Incidentally, Beatty also committed perjury relating to the affair and had the decency to resign from her city job.
Removing Kilpatrick from office is a no-brainer, but one Detroit newspaper points out that it’s a no-win situation for the governor. If she doesn’t act, she looks like a wimp and if she removes him, she risks a backlash from his many supporters—mostly black—in Detroit.
A veteran Detroit political consultant said "The ugly reality is that she wouldn’t want the racial [animus] that would come from removing a black mayor from the blackest American city." It seems evident that the governor needs to get a spine.
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