DETROIT (FOX 2) - Mayor Mike Duggan is taking issue with accusations that he gave preferential treatment to a Detroit nonprofit and says the deletion of emails was to protect his staffers from a 'media circus'.
He held a press conference Tuesday morning to reiterate his position and take questions from the media.
The report says the mayor picked the Make Your Date prenatal health program as the city's choice to fight infant mortality instead of going through the regular selection process it was supposed to go through.
In the report, the OIG determined that, while Duggan did not violate city policies or laws, the treatment of the charity was "not best practice for good governance".
"The report - after six months - concluded there was no violation by me of any city policy, practice, or law - there was no conflict of interest," said Duggan.
The relationship between Duggan and Make Your Date, run by Wayne State Doctor Sonia Hassan, is not clear. The OIG found the program was given preferential treatment when it was handpicked by Duggan to work with the city's health department. Duggan, again, takes issue with that claim.
"I don't see how it can be considered preferential treatment when you partner with America's leader in research and preterm birth, right here in the City of Detroit, and you produce those kinds of results. I certainly take issue with that finding," said Duggan.
Duggan says the program receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants and has had much success in defending infant mortality.
Ellen Ha says that's just not the point.
"That's why we believe preferential treatment is wrong, Because, in a democratic society, people need to understand what process the government took and why a certain non-profit was selected to work with the City of Detroit," said Ha.
The most troubling part, Ha says, is that the Mayor's Chief of Staff, former FOX 2 reporter Alexis Wiley, ordered staffers to delete hundreds of emails related to the program.
"We believe this rose to the level of abuse of authority because the order was given by some high-ranking official in the mayor's office. In particular, it was his chief of staff, who should have known better as being a former reporter herself. It just sends the wrong message," said Ha.
Duggan also supported Wiley, saying that they were trying to protect lower-level staffers.
"They were trying to protect junior staff people from being drawn in to the incredible media circus that was going on at the time. I think they made a mistake in judgment but I think they did it with the best of motives," said Duggan.
Ha recommends training for Wiley and staffers. Wiley released a statement on the findings:
"I have spent my life building a career based on integrity. In my 10 years as a reporter and six years in government, my integrity has never once been questioned. I would never knowingly do anything that would jeopardize or undermine that. When interviewed by the Office of the Inspector General, I was truthful and I stand by my statement. Needless to say, I strongly disagree with the OIG findings."
The OIG does not determine if any laws were broken - that's for the Attorney General to decide. That office said the investigation is still ongoing and would not contact.
FOX 2 also contacted the U.S. Attorney to see if they are investigating the make your date program as well. A spokesperson said they were "unable to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation."
The mayor will be consulting with the city's HR Director on recommendations for potential discipline and will also address a new policy for the personal use of email.
Duggan also said that the emails were recovered and posted online for anyone to read. Ha says that doesn't matter.
"The point isn't that the emails were recovered, the point isn't about the contents of the emails itself. But the point is that somebody ordered it to be deleted - that is very disturbing," said Ha.