Eric Sabree: Serving With Dignity

In the late 1950s to the early ‘60s, there was a television series that aired on ABC called ‘The Naked City.”  It was a police-themed drama set in New York City, which presented outlandish stories that occurred in America’s largest city.  

At the conclusion of each episode, the voice-over commentator would said… “There are eight million stories in The Naked City…this has been one of them.”  So it is with Detroit… There are eight million stories in the Motor City, my column today presents one of them.  

Earlier this year, local and regional print and electronic news outlets carried stories about Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree.  The stories centered on allegations and accusations that Sabree somehow betrayed the public’s trust by violating county ethical guidelines. 

Multiple media outlets reported that members of Sabree’s family violated the Auction Policy of the Office of the Treasurer by participating in the 2011 auction.  Sabree expressed regrets that he didn’t direct his family’s real estate business away from the auction, but said no policies were broken.    

“I have been consistent in stating there was no policy violation, due to the fact that the Treasurer’s office did not conduct the public auctions in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013,” Sabree said in a statement.  “It was conducted by an independent private company that supervised the entire auction process.  The policy in force today, did not apply in 2011.” 

Eric Sabree, who took office in 2016, has offered full transparency pertaining to this matter, and has welcomed the Wayne County Commission’s expedited audit review and County Executive’s ethics review. 

As I’ve looked at the attacks on Sabree, most of which have called for him to step down from office, I must speak up and speak out on his behalf.  I’m compelled to speak because there seems to be a “silence of the lambs” from the community, particularly African Americans to stand on his behalf. 

In my opinion, Eric Sabree has served his high-profile position with integrity, dignity and transparency And amid accusations of wrongdoings, all of which are not prosecutable, we should champion the positive things Sabree has done in office.    

Since assuming his leadership role, the Wayne County Treasurer Office has reduced foreclosures by 85%.  In addition, more than 40 payment kiosks have been installed across Wayne County, making it more convenient for taxpayers to pay.  He has also implemented a text message alert system to remind more than 30,000 taxpayers about their payment plan due dates. And, Sabree serves honorably as chairman of the Wayne County Land Bank.   

Sabree has pledged to find additional ways to help individuals and families who are struggling to avoid foreclosures in the 43 municipalities that comprise Wayne County. 

Eric Sabree is a really good man.  He’s a devout Muslim who has lived his personal and professional lives beyond reproach for decades.  

And, maybe I missed the news stories about Eric Sabree’s predecessor, because I don’t remember anyone questioning the ethics of the man that held the Wayne County Treasurer Office for almost 40 years.  If I recall correctly, taxpayers could make their tax payment checks out to him.  Imagine that being done in other city, county, or state offices. Yet, no one said a mumbling word.    

As a community of African Americans, we have to understand that we are all in this thing together.  And people will take us apart if we let them.  We have to stand up for each other. 

Eric Sabree, like all of us, is not perfect.  He’s entitled to make mistake like anyone else.  However, any mistakes made pertaining to these matters are not unethical or prosecutable.           I believe what has been reported about Sabree has been done to embarrass him, to tarnish the excellent reputation he has built as a longtime public servant with and for the City of Detroit.  

Lastly, there are people in high places in Wayne County who are throwing rocks at Eric Sabree and hiding their hands.  My message to them, especially our African American leaders: Today it’s Eric Sabree under attack, tomorrow it could be you.   And if folks aren’t careful, while they’re trying to uproot someone today, tomorrow someone maybe trying to uproot them.  

And that’s…The Gospel Truth! 

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