Can You Even Call It "Selling" Us Out?
Excellent reporting in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday about the FBI's pursuit of the former mayor's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, and the feds' effort to link him to corruption and influence-peddling back when his son ran the city.
But what galled me the most wasn't the brazenness that the piece suggested -- but rather the sheer, two-bit, hoodrat pettiness of so much of what the FBI says the elder Kilpatrick (and maybe his son) seemed willing to sell the city out for.
They detail payoffs and perks that investigators say Bernard Kilpatrick received from contractors and other people seeking city business, including tickets to a prizefight in Las Vegas, Cristal champagne and a $7,000 discount on a leased Cadillac Escalade.
Overpriced bubbly? A not-that-great discount on a Caddy truck? A boxing match? (And no, I don't care that that Mayweather/De La Hoya fight was a classic.)
Look, I get that there's this idea that every person has his or her price. I can't remember where I first heard it, but I recall a saying that went something like, "If someone says they caught me stealing $5, they'd be lying. But if someone says they caught me stealing $5 million, well, you might want to believe that." OK, understood. People can be bought.
But to be such "savvy insiders," why do area political figures so often seem to go at such cut-rate prices?
For example, there was the former Detroit City Council president's aide who resigned after the FBI taped him taking a couple of payoffs, at the lucrative sum of $2,000 each.
There's William Lattimore, the Southfield City Council member who copped to bribery charges and admitted he took $7,500 to help a local pawnshop relocate.
There's Jerry Rivers, a former Detroit police officer and Kilpatrick bodyguard, who pleaded guilty to a bribery charge for taking $20,000 to move along the $3.5 million sale of city-owned property in Brighton, Mich. Rivers took 20 grand, and gave another $30,000 to two other Kilpatrick aides, including the deputy mayor under KK, to split between them. OK, maybe they beat the one percent finder's fee -- but in a three-way split? As Chris Rock would chide, "You low-expectation-havin' mother--...."
And there is, of course, Venality Fair covergirl Monica Conyers, convicted of taking a bribe to help grease a deal for sludge hauler Synagro Technologies that was worth more than $1 billion. Her price for trying to help a 10-figure deal go through? The princely sum of "at least" $6,000.
Oh, I know that, handed out steadily over a long political career, those kinds of payoffs can really add up. And I definitely realize that the feds are only scratching the surface of this scandal. Still, looking at it all in the moment, so much of what passes for municipal corruption here right now -- particularly in light of the serious issues at stake -- is looking as pathetic and low-rent as it is criminal.
I mean, for less than pennies on the dollar, we had politicos willing to hand over a city wracked with high asthma rates to a sludge hauler intent on building a new incinerator. For relative slave wages (or, at best, a good night's take from a neighborhood craps game), our "leaders" were willing to screw with zoning laws, cut backdoor deals with billionaires against our interests and consider entrusting vital needs like insurance to any fly-by-night company with middling champagne and ringside seats at MGM Las Vegas.
While the FBI has yet to charge either of the Kilpatricks with anything, the latest revelations -- taken with the convictions that have already come out of the ongoing corruption probe at Detroit city hall -- are enough to make me wonder not just about how little some of these folks value metro Detroit taxpayers.
But also about how cheaply they value themselves.