I cursed my fate the other day as I heard someone start to read Kwame Kilpatrick’s latest dispatch from Bizarro World, a place where he, not the sun, is the center of the universe.
I know it will sound funny for a guy trying to sell a book about the rise and fall of Hizzoner and the deleterious effect he had on the city he professed to love, but I was hoping we’d heard the last of him after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of his conviction on 24 counts, ranging from fraud to embezzlement to racketeering. I tried my best not to listen to this latest dispatch to his sycophants in The Flat Earth Society.
But alas and alack, fate has cast me as fact-checker for Detroit’s most eloquent felon.
Generally, I try to limit myself to pointing out that Kilpatrick accomplished surprising little during his nearly seven years in office and that, contrary to what his apologists would have you believe, his 28-year sentence on public corruption charges was not the harshest EVER.
In the summer of 2012 - a few months BEFORE Kilpatrick went on trial in federal court in Detroit - a county commissioner in Ohio received a 28-year sentence for public corruption. You can look it up. His name is Jimmy Dimora. And, yes, he was a white boy.
When it comes to Kilpatrick, the victim list reads like this:
1. The people of Detroit.
2. The facts.
And this latest dispatch is no exception. It starts off promisingly enough:
“I have discovered so much about myself; Good, Bad, and Ugly.”
Then it devolves into a diatribe of denial.
Kilpatrick claims the media, the state, the prosecutor and the cops were part of a vast conspiracy to railroad him. Forgetting for a moment that each of those entities can barely get their shoes tied - even when they’re wearing loafers - I can tell you firsthand of that Jim Schaefer and I practically begged for leaks, tips and clues for years. Instead, the authorities ignored stories we did that would have led to indictments in other jurisdictions. And the media? Don’t get me started! I left one media outlet and was forced out of another because they did not share my commitment to continue exposing the mayor’s incompetence and corruption.
Kilpatrick blames everyone but himself for diminishing “any notion of professionalism, ‘know-how,’ ability, and work-ethic, within the job of Mayor.”
Yet it was Kilpatrick who stocked his administration with friends and family who raided the mayor’s petty cash fund, lived high on the city’s credit card and leased a bright red Lincoln Navigator for Kilpatrick’s First - but not only! - Lady. He also said he would tear down any mayor in Detroit history … then tore down less. Most folks have forgotten that Kilpatrick even failed to get a philanthropist (charter school booster Robert Thompson) to make good on his promise to give the city $10 million for demolitions.
In no particular order, here are some of the most outrageous claims in Kilpatrick’s Facebook post:
• “There is not a single count, assertion, nor conviction, in my case of ANY stealing of ANY money. As a matter of fact, there is no embezzlement, no misuse of public funds, no fixing of contracts, no bid-rigging, no money … There was not a single contract where ANYONE was paid for work that was not done. Nor was there ANY assertion of thereof.”
• “I have NEVER extorted anyone (nor was there any testimony, at-trial that I ever did from any witness.)”
• “I NEVER criminally misused ANY funds from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.”
Where do we start?
There was LOTS of stealing of money, embezzlement, misuse of public funds, fixing of contracts and money. Kilpatrick created the non-profit Kilpatrick Civic Fund with the purported goal of helping improve Detroit’s image, but raided it to support his lavish lifestyle. He took cash from people seeking city work. His chief fundraiser even testified to pulling wads of cash from her bra and handing it to Kilpatrick in his city hall office. Contractors swore that they couldn’t get deals unless they hired mayoral best bud Bobby Ferguson - even paying him a million dollars for work he DIDN’T do. And there were plenty of assertions - and a hellacious amount of testimony - from witnesses accusing Kilpatrick of everything but orchestrating Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Thrown in for good measure, Kilpatrick takes credit for the creation of Campus Martius and says his conduct had nothing to do with Detroit’s bankruptcy.
Gentle reader, I have covered Detroit city hall since the days before Kilpatrick turned it into the epicenter of one of the most corrupt administrations the city has ever known. I’m here to tell you Mayor Dennis Archer and the Detroit 300 Conservancy deserve credit for Campus Martius - which opened before Kilpatrick took office - and that Kilpatrick’s failure to adjust the city’s spending to its revenues was a leading cause of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy.
Again, don’t take my word for it. In 2013, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said: “The city’s operations have become dysfunctional and wasteful after years of budgetary restrictions, mismanagement, crippling operational practices and, in some cases, indifference or corruption.” (Did you see how that worked; instead of just making a bunch of phony-baloney claims and using all capital letters here and there for emphasis, I was able to cite facts, figures and independent sources to support my arguments.)
Perhaps worst of all, Kilpatrick blames his victims - the people of Detroit - for his downfall.
“The entire city bought it,” he wrote of the imagined conspiracy against him. “The whole thing! Yes, ‘Real’ Detroiters too!”
A 28-year sentence is a helluva long time. But if the purpose of incarcerating white collar criminals is to foster reflection, repentance and reform, Kilpatrick would be doing a life term.
“I need for everyone to know that I am NOT condemned, nor am I guilt-ridden,” Kilpatrick wrote. “I am NOT depressed, distraught or dismayed.”
I am glad to see Kilpatrick is keeping his spirits up, but sad to see he left out the most important “not.”
He is NOT sorry.