Kilpatrick ghosts follow Detroit's mayoral candidates

Kilpatrick ghosts follow Detroit's mayoral candidates

Posted: Updated:
Sheriff Benny Napoleon (left) and Mike Duggan (right), Detroit mayoral candidates Sheriff Benny Napoleon (left) and Mike Duggan (right), Detroit mayoral candidates

Kwame Kilpatrick's career is dead and buried. You might think those who worked for him are also in the political graveyard, but a lot of Kilpatrick's cohorts are now working for Detroit's current mayoral candidates - their political careers have been resurrected.

"There's a lot of folks that know where the bodies are buried and they're useful to have on your staff," says Vince Keenan, a political activist.

"People don't get rid of good people and people don't get rid of folks when they got pit bulls. You know what, they keep the pitbulls and they use them," says Adolph Mongo, a political consultant.

"There's a number of very good people in this town who believed in Kwame Kilpatrick and worked for him and were terribly disappointed," says Mike Duggan.

"I don't think they should be punished forever because they happened to work for somebody," Sheriff Benny Napoleon thinks.

Duggan's campaign includes former top Kilpatrick supporters Conrad Mallett, Butch Hollowell, Malik Shabazz and Charles Beckham, but the biggest Kilpatrick supporter in Duggan's campaign might be Duggan himself.

M.L. ELRICK: You were a key adviser to Kwame Kilpatrick right up to the end.
DUGGAN: Right.
ELRICK: You provided him a lot of support, a lot of advice. What does that say about your judgment?
DUGGAN: It says that I believed in somebody and I was wrong.
ELRICK: Do you feel like you owe Detroit an apology for Kwame Kilpatrick?
DUGGAN: No, I don't.

Some of Kilpatrick's most generous campaign contributors have spent more than a million dollars trying to get Duggan elected as the next mayor of Detroit.

ELRICK: You've got people behind you, financial supporters, Cindy Pasky, Dan Gilbert, Peter Karmanos, Jim Nicholson, Roger Penske - they were all strong Kilpatrick supporters. And they were wrong about Kwame Kilpatrick. Could they be wrong about you, too?
DUGGAN: They were also strong Archer supporters and I think most people would say they were right about Dennis Archer, and so...
ELRICK: Every other candidate they get it right?
DUGGAN: An election is about choices, and you're not running against the Lord Almighty, you're running against the alternative.

Duggan contributors Avinash Rachmale and Tony Soave testified at Kilpatrick's public corruption trial that they provided the mayor and his friends money or perks to secure millions in city deals.

ELRICK: Isn't their money tainted?
DUGGAN: I'm going to say this again. I'm sure that you are going to find that they gave to multiple candidates at multiple levels of government.
ELRICK: But we're talking about mayor. And this is an office that has been tainted and that really needs to be above board.
DUGGAN: And I'm going to tell you the same thing is, I'm going to conduct myself in the same way that I always have. Nobody's going to get preferential treatment.     
ELRICK: Let me just tell you how that sounds to me: You're comfortable taking their money and you're going to keep their money.
DUGGAN: Yeah. I'm not singling out any individual person and going to embarrass them.
ELRICK: I think Tony Soave can handle it. He doesn't seem to be lacking in confidence.

Napoleon's campaign also has plenty of its own Kilpatrick connections. Campaign manager Eddie MacDonald helped get Kilpatrick elected. He was also a top Kilpatrick city hall appointee. Campaign spokesman Jamaine Dickens used to tangle with the media for Kilpatrick. Napoleon has even hired Kilpatrick's step-grandmother as well as Beverlyn Hilton, who is a long-time Kilpatrick family friend and former mayoral appointee.

NAPOLEON: Detroit is a big, small town.

ELRICK: Politics is about messages, and what message does that send that you have somebody who's been a part of a corrupt administration who's doing key work for you?
NAPOLEON: Well, both sides have people who have people that have been involved in that administration.
NAPOLEON: You cannot blame people for who they happened to have worked for, when they were never implicated in anything untoward or improper.

But one of Napoleon's advisers has been convicted of breaking the law. Long-time Kilpatrick ally and former Highland Park Emergency Financial Manager Art Blackwell pleaded no contest to safe keeping of public money after he was charged with embezzling from Highland Park. He was ordered to pay the city $264,000.

NAPOLEON: Let's cut it to the chase. Art Blackwell is a friend of mine, I'm not going to deny that and he has talked to me. Case closed.
ELRICK: But do you trust Art Blackwell?
NAPOLEON: Do I trust him? Why would I not trust him?
ELRICK: The people of Highland Park trusted him and he betrayed them.

Napoleon's fundraising also has a distinctly Kilpatrick flavor. Matty Moroun and his family have given Napoleon thousands of dollars, and former Kilpatrick building department honcho Amru Meah held a fundraiser for Napoleon. Business owners told me in 2008 they testified before a grand jury that Meah squeezed them for contributions to Kilpatrick's campaign warchest.

NAPOLEON: I've never known Amru Meah to be involved in any type of criminal activity; he just happens to know people who have an interest as business people in furthering the advancement and growth of the city of Detroit.

ELRICK: You have people who have a cloud over them, or who maybe have a stain over them. Do you want them associated with you?
NAPOLEON: I don't see the cloud that you're talking about, to be quite honest.

And then there's Chris Jackson. He created the Detroit Forward PAC. The political action committee has been paying for pro-Napoleon commercials. Jackson once wrote $25,000 in checks for councilwoman Monica Conyers' vote for a strip club deal.

NAPOLEON: If he decides that he wants to support a candidate and he wants to raise money for a candidate, that's his decision. But he is not a part of my campaign so you can't put that one on me.
ELRICK: You've accepted money from him, and you've certainly seen what his political action committee has done on your behalf.
NAPOLEON: I can't control that.

Like it or not, Detroiters are going to get a new mayor who shares a lot of political DNA with an old mayor.

It's okay if you want to have some guys around that know where the bodies are buried, but the question is: Are you going to move forward by listening to the old school? And I think that we have to build a new school," says Keenan.

"If you want to talk about Kilpatrick, you can talk about him forever because his influence is going to be here at least for another four years," says Mongo.

  • Download the FOX 2 Apps

  • FOX 2 News Five-Day Forecast
Powered by WorldNow

4739 NW 53rd Avenue, Sutie B
Gainesville, FL 32653

Phone: (352) 371-0051

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices