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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.

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  • 1

    Darrell - I agree in that I think a big part is that the Feds can only convict on charges on which they actually have evidence. As you said a few thousand dollars with 100 different people add up to a hefty sum. It's like being on the Titanic, you can only prove that the tip of the iceberg is out there but we all know the scale of the corruption runs much deeper and bigger. If anyone thinks that Monica Conyers really sold her soul for only 6,000$ I'd venture to say that's all the prosecutors could easily prove.

  • 2

    The Civil Rights movement was great thing and it has had it's setback because of corrupt people.

    Entitlement seems not to have been clearly understood by some. It's not an invitation to get ours because they got theirs.

    Integrity is the keyword. Either it is there or it is not. And without it you got a mess.

    Bernard must have watched the Godfather with his son many times because he referred to him by the names in the film. They were living a misunderstood and romanticized dream.

    Jimmy Breslin said that that was the worst movie ever because it glorified and romanticized the most sickening and measly bunch of people on earth and that the lives they actually led were far uglier than anything that Francis portrayed. Jimmy covered them closely.

    If ever there was censorship perhaps that was the one to be censored but that must now be left up to us.

    The horrible thing about what was going on is that it was impacting the kids and I saw it in the students in the King Band. There were several who exhibited too much chutzpah and doing things that could have gotten him arrested.

    Thank Goodness that Obama is in power. There can be absolutely no accusations that 'whitey is doing us again".

    The most upsetting and sickening thing for me is that a small cadre of Corporate heads continued to support Kwame despite the unravelling of the secrecies and the stories of corruption on all facets kept coming out.

    One is left to wonder what in the hell was going on in their heads? Did they think that Black People are something else and have to be treated in a corrupt way? Even Brooksie had soothing words. Or had Kwame compromised them in some way?
    What made them keep going when all evidence arising was very rich in meretriciousness and worse.

    It's as if the white guys were really condoning, aiding and abetting the horrible behavior.

    That is the tough nut to crack.... then again maybe it was crack.


  • 3

    Totally agree, Darrell. It's appalling how cheaply people will sell their integrity. One would hope that we'd all be stronger and not sell it at all or to sell it only to save another person or for a great cause. But to sell your personal integrity for a few thousand dollars? Must not have been worth much to begin with.

    Thanks for a good story, since I missed the Freep on Sunday.

  • 4

    What upsets me is wondering how many opportunities the city lost? How many suburban and out of town developers and business people chose not to do business in Detroit based on the perception of corruption or pay to play?

    I know developers who wanted to work in the city, but had no interest in dealing with trying to figure out who to deal with when they could work in plenty of other cities who wanted them, with less trouble.

    Lets hope Mayor Bing, the new city council and the FBI probes help change the perception.

  • 5

    Dawsey tells it like it is. It reflects badly on the City that some of its elected public officials are corrupt and its gets downright embarassing when we learn the low prices that they charge when shaking down contractors and developers. I extend thanks to all of the reporters, members of the 4th estate, who have had a key role in uncovering corruption in the City and bringing it to public attention. I worry about the future of the two major daily papers in the City and what will happen if they cannot afford to employ the reporters who do all of the hard work uncovering these scandals. Those honest and ethical elected public officials and City workers who have refused to become part of the City's organizational culture of corruption should be applauded since they will lead the City forward to better days.

  • 6

    I am not sure DD's rant really hit the target at all besides adding to the volume of fiction and cheap sleazy reporting of corruption the media has saturated this region with for decades DD's rant really adds nothing of value to this saga..

    Often what drives a person to engaged in certain behavior is of such a personal nature and the result of a lifetime personality that petty speculative commentaries like DD's suggests perhaps he has his own agenda at play..

    Bill's rant and insertion of Black people, Obama and the civil rights movement has me wondering Bill took his meds today...What does his musings have to do with anything????

    In summary I would just like sound and objective reporting and journalism that is based upon fact and substance..I don't think Mr.Kilpatrick has been indicted or convicted of any crimes yet of any nature or degree..I just think this fact is important to note.. Why DD and others in the media continue their assualt on responsible journalism remains troubling for me...

    • 6.1

      "Monica Conyers, convicted of taking a bribe"... forgot about that one eh?

  • 7


    My post was about the Bernard Kilpatrick not Monica Conyers but I understand your hungry hate filled anger and glee to smear folks especially Black people...

    Next time employ better reading

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