Council secrets - why some say transparency matters

 City council has been a problem for Detroit in the past, but this is supposed to be a new day, with a new and better council. So how does this council measure up? 

It began with a traffic stop for councilman George Clinton Cushingberry. The councilman, who received a minor infraction by police for an open bottle of booze and a couple of marijuana joints.

Fox 2's ML Elrick decided to dig deeper into the backgrounds of the other council members, searching for lawsuits, criminal histories, and bankruptcies. 

He scoured property records and found nothing on three council members: Council President Brenda Jones, Councilman James Tate, and Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.

Click here to read what he found on other members, which included a felony complaint against Gabe Leland from East Lansing district court (SEE DOCUMENT) and a ownership deed of a Drexel residence in Detroit owned by Scott Benson that he claimed was  purchased by an LLC (SEE DOCUMENT).

Keeping a watchful eye on the nine city council members responsible for helping get Detroit back on track, is key. 

Two editors of Detroit newspapers echoed that, with two points of view.  

 "Can voters trust individuals who have serious financial and ethical challenges to be stewards of the taxpayer dollars," said Bankole Thompson, Michigan Chronicle senior editor. "I think it's a serious question and it's a debate that people need to have."

"We all have some kind of personal whatever, but is that impacting negatively my job performance," said Zenobia Jeffries, editor of the Michigan Citizen. "And I think that's what we need to look at most."

Thompson said it's critical that we examine the backgrounds of public officials.

"We are getting ready to emerge out of the ashes of bankruptcy," Thompson said. "So are these the leaders that can really take the city in a new direction, a new level? I think it raises a lot of questions."

Jeffries says past problems aren't a fair gauge of future performance.

"Some people may be dysfunctional in one capacity and more functional in another," she said.

Both editors agree public officials need to be scrutinized.

"I think that's why our job is so important," Jeffries said.  "They know someone is watching, someone is paying attention to their behavior."

"I understand the issue of redemption," Thompson said."I think it's important to indicate that when people make mistakes in the past, it's important to acknowledge that. Especially if in fact they've come out and basically said they've made mistakes before and now they move forward. 

"But, interestingly, none of this has been disclosed."

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