Detroit City Council payroll rife with suburbanites

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If you’ve ever been to a Detroit City Council meeting, you’ve heard this familiar refrain: If you want to do business in the City of Detroit, you need to hire people who live in the City of Detroit.

It’s a reasonable request. So how does the city council stack up when it comes to walking the talk?

A two-month Fox 2 investigation of hiring practices over the past year reveals that six of the council’s nine members have multiple employees, contractors and interns who live outside Detroit. Despite the plethora of Detroit-based media consultants, Councilmember Scott Benson went as far as Bayshore, N.Y. to hire a part-time communications specialist.

Three council members had one or fewer suburbanites on their staff.

Councilwoman Mary Sheffield has hired only Detroiters, while councilmen Andre Spivey and James Tate have each hired one suburbanite.

My research also revealed that suburbanites are among the highest-paid city council staff members.

City council members were not eager to discuss their hiring practices with me. I called the six council members with the most suburbanites on their payroll to schedule interviews at a time and place that would be convenient to them. None of them agreed to meet with me, even after I informed their staff members that if they would not meet with me at a time that was convenient to them, I would meet with them whenever I could find them.

The councilmembers provided a variety of explanations, ranging from not being able to find enough qualified Detroiters, to preferring political supporters to refusing to use residency as a litmus test.

(State law abolished the city’s residency policy about 15 years ago. However, no law forbids council members from giving Detroiters preference for city council jobs.)

You can see for yourself what the council members said when I finally caught up with them.

Tate’s hiring philosophy is simple. He said: "The first thing I'm going to do is hire someone who lives in the district, then the city, then the best person possible ... I want to provide as many opportunities for people who live in the city as possible."

WEB EXTRA - Here is an on the record comment from Councilman Scott Benson:

"While you are focused on three people--including one, who is a deceased former part-time employee, May God Bless His Soul, one part-time consultant and one employee, who moved out of Detroit after he and his family were victims of a violent crime, I have been focused on bringing thousands of jobs to the City of Detroit. That includes my involvement in the successful creation of 600 jobs in my district, 400 of which will be coming online in the summer of 2018.

"My role in the negotiations and community engagement process with Link Logistics brought 200 jobs to the city, 80% of which are staffed by Detroiters. I am proud of my record of bringing jobs to Detroiters and extremely proud of all of my staff members who work tirelessly everyday serving the city." 

Benson has written an op-ed for the Michigan Chronicle criticizing FOX 2's coverage. Read it HERE. To watch the interview between Elrick and Benson see video below. Mobile users may CLICK HERE to watch it.

Contact M.L. Elrick at 248-552-5261 or