February 9, 2008

An Accomplished and Facile Liar

Detroit Free Press February 9, 2008

During a Friday radio appearance on WMXD-FM (92.3), Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick spoke with host Frankie Darcell about the text message scandal that has rocked his administration. The following are excerpts of his comments versus what court records show or what people had to say in response to the mayor.

What the mayor said: "This case was about a wrongful termination and neither person was fired. It was about me, Kwame Kilpatrick, and the relationship that that jury and this region has with me."

What the records show: Former Deputy Chief Gary Brown, who filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the mayor and city, claimed he was forced out of his job -- and the jury unanimously found he was telling the truth. The jury delivered a $6.5-million verdict last September for Brown and former officer Harold Nelthrope, who also sued.

What the mayor said: "We had a private engagement to exchange private information [a reference to a confidentiality agreement that he and former chief of staff Christine Beatty signed with the cops' attorney after settling the case for $8.4 million]. They were never city documents."

What the records show: The settlement agreement and the confidential agreement were linked and negotiated by lawyers paid with city funds. Wayne County Circuit Judge Robert Colombo Jr., who is presiding over the Free Press' Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the secret documents, rejected arguments the documents are private, saying, "Nothing could be further from the truth."

What the mayor said: "I mean, you name them -- Roger Penske, Dan Gilbert, Doug Rothwell, you know, the GM family -- everybody has contacted me and told me we're with you, let's continue to move forward, let's keep doing projects. They're all trying to think of things to change the conversation as well."

What the business leaders had to say: Rothwell, president of the Detroit Renaissance group of CEOs, said Friday afternoon he has not spoken with Kilpatrick since the controversy erupted but has spoken with Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams. Rothwell said, as he did last week, that Detroit Renaissance "will continue to stay engaged in the redevelopment of the city." A spokesman for Penske, who led the Super Bowl XL host committee, said Penske had no comment. A General Motors Corp. spokesman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Quicken Loans Chairman Gilbert wouldn't comment on whether Gilbert has talked to the mayor.

What the mayor said: "The recent things is the text messages, which were, you know, illegally obtained [by] the Free Press and, you know, now the whole paper now is covering up their illegal act with a lot of criminal activity and collusion in writing these reports."

What the Free Press said: Executive Editor Caesar Andrews said the Free Press did not obtain the records illegally.

What the mayor said: "I didn't know this was coming out, I've never seen these messages."

What the records show: He wrote and received the messages, literally hundreds exchanged between the mayor and Beatty and reviewed by the Free Press. The newspaper sued for their release on Jan. 3, subpoenaed them and -- after obtaining the records outside of the lawsuit efforts -- asked Kilpatrick for an interview more than 24 hours in advance of publishing a report about them.

What the mayor said: "There was a trial. You know, first of all, all of the things that you're hearing about now were never a part of the trial, never discussed."

What the records show: Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Callahan, who presided over the whistle-blower trial, ruled that Kilpatrick's alleged philandering was relevant and admissible in court because the former cops claimed the mayor retaliated against them for an investigation that might have uncovered affairs with Beatty and other women. Mike Stefani, the former cops' lawyer, mentioned the text messages several times at trial and asked Beatty extensively about them. The messages, which were the basis of the Free Press report last month, showed the mayor and Beatty lied under oath about their affair.

What the mayor said: "Confidentiality happens in divorce cases, lawsuits, where at the end of the case there's an exchange of documents between one party and another. At the end of this case, because the documents were never obtained by the city, because they weren't city documents, we had a private engagement to exchange private information."

What the records show: The Free Press sought the confidentiality agreement through its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit after the city refused to turn over records that the paper believed were being withheld with the settlement documents. The act was created to allow public access to government business and records. The paging devices used by the mayor and Beatty were paid for with city funds, and the $8.4-million settlement came from city tax dollars.

What the mayor said: "The council voted on the settlement. ... We presented all that information to them. They voted on the number. They knew what the number was. They had all that information."

What the records show: Several council members have said they had no clue there was a confidential agreement connected to the settlement, and that the confidential deal was aimed at concealing the text messages and other matters.

What the mayor said: "Those [settlement] checks were sent before the Dec. 5 date of the confidentiality agreement signing, so let me just tell you why that's so interesting. That means that they already had their money when we signed the confidentiality agreement."

What the records show: The confidentiality agreement was signed Nov. 1. Stefani and his clients didn't begin receiving checks until Nov. 16. They received their last payments Dec. 4.

What the mayor said: The mayor's office was "audited in '04, '05 and '06. I stand behind all the hard numbers. The way we managed our finances is good."

What the records show: Joseph Harris, the city's auditor general at the time, found Kilpatrick had spent more than $50,000 on personal items on the city's credit card. Kilpatrick eventually paid back nearly $9,000 for what he described as disputed charges, but did not detail what the check covered. Harris also said there were missing receipts and purchases that circumvented city spending limits. In 2004, three former aides to Kilpatrick -- including two of his former high school classmates -- agreed to repay about $46,000 they embezzled from the mayor's petty cash account.

What the mayor said: "There was no secret deal. As indicated in the lawsuit. The only other thing was the confidentiality agreement. Which we say was confidential. Because this is what we did, Frankie, we volunteered to release the confidentiality agreement."

What the records show: Judge Colombo ordered the release of the confidentiality agreement as a result of the Free Press suit. Kilpatrick's lawyers argued to keep all the settlement-related records secret until deciding, on appeal, to release the confidentiality agreement.