Mayor Mike Duggan’s Chief of Staff, Alexis Wiley, and two other city employees will retain their jobs, the mayor said Tuesday at a special press conference.
The announcement came in the wake of an independent investigation that discovered the city employees abused their authority by directing lower-level staff members to delete emails related to the controversial nonprofit “Make Your Date.”
On Monday, a six-month probe released by Detroit’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) discovered Duggan gave the nonprofit favor and recommended three city employees, including Wiley, Chief Development Officer Ryan Friedrichs, and Deputy Chief Development Officer Sirene Abou-Chakra, should face discipline for directing workers in the city’s grants office to delete emails. Duggan said the three aides would undergo document management for their actions.
“I have consulted today with Denise Starr, our HR Director, and Lawrence Garcia, our Corporation Council, and I have directed that Ms. Wiley, Mr. Friedrichs, and Ms. Abou-Chakra undergo training that Mr. Garcia will be running,” Mayor Duggan told the press. “They will also undergo document management and document retention law to make sure they are fully-versed in these programs. They made a mistake in judgement and I believe this is the appropriate action to be taken.”
Mayor Duggan said he was not aware of the deleted emails and he did direct his staff to delete them. He said the decision to delete the emails was made to protect the junior staffers from attacks fueled by Detroit businessman and Duggan adversary, Robert Carmack.
Carmack, an auto shop owner, gained notoriety in recent months for feuding with Mayor Duggan, airing private investigator footage on a billboard truck outside City Hall, after hiring a private eye to follow the mayor. Carmack said he had video proof that Mayor Duggan may have had an extramarital relationship with Dr. Sonia Hassan, who leads Make Your Date. The senior administration officials feared that if the emails involving the younger staffers — who helped raise money for the program, Make Your Date — were released, they would be next on Carmarck’s “radar.”
“We had two junior staff people who had done nothing except their jobs. And it’s a matter of concern to us that Carmack and his surrogates continue to file Freedom of Information Act requests,” Duggan said Tuesday morning. “At some point, these two junior staff people are going to end up on his radar screen. They’re going to become part of the media circus. They’re not in the cabinet and they haven’t been warned. They aren’t ready for this. And so we thought, in order to protect them, that if they deleted the emails, their names would never surface, and they’d be left out. Obviously that isn’t the way it has turned out.”
The OIG’s report said Mayor Duggan picked the Make Your Date prenatal health program as Detroit’s choice to fight infant mortality, instead of going through the regular selection process it was supposed to go through. And while Duggan did not violate city policies or laws, the OIG report concluded that the selection of Make Your Date to be a partner and recipient of city resources was done in a manner that lacked fairness, openness, and transparency.
“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,” Duggan stated. “I certainly take issue with that finding.”
The next question will be what state officials have to say about the deleted email situation. The attorney general’s office is looking into the accusations to see if further action should be taken.