Thursday, March 06, 2008

Falling Star? The Trials of Kwame Kilpatrick

Originally published at

What happened? Just four years ago, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick addressed the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston – the same convention that served as the nation’s first real introduction to Barack Obama.

The so-called “Hip Hop Mayor” is an attorney, a former state legislator and is currently Vice President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors. His mom, Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, is Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. He is a super delegate in this year’s Democratic presidential nomination process. With this kind of resume, titles like “Senator” and “Governor” were thought to be well within Kilpatrick’s grasp.

Barack and Kwame should have been on similar career paths. Instead, the world watches the meteoric rise of presidential candidate Obama, while Kilpatrick’s political career is in freefall.

The chorus of criticism that confronts Kwame Kilpatrick gets louder every day. On March 5, the Wayne County Election Commission ruled that a proposed recall effort can move forward. If 57,328 registered signatures are collected in the next 90 days, Detroiters may be voting to elect a president, and voting on whether to remove their mayor from office on the same ballot.

A day earlier the Detroit City Council decided to postpone a vote on a non-binding resolution that would have demanded the mayor’s resignation. Council members expressed concern about the timing of the measure. They want to investigate the situation further, but some were ready to pull the trigger.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Mayor Kilpatrick’s office sited logistical concerns when it asked the National Conference of Black Mayors to move its annual convention from Detroit. The 1,100 hotel rooms that were booked at the city’s new MGM Grand Hotel have been cancelled. Detroit’s loss is New Orleans’ gain. We can only speculate that the mayor didn’t think he needed the extra media attention right now.

Controversy and crisis have dogged the mayor since his first few months on the job. During his first term, Kilpatrick was criticized for having his family chauffeured around in a red Lincoln Navigator that was leased using city money. The mayor would later repay $9,000 of a reported $210,000 in credit card charges that were used to purchase expensive dinners, massages and bottles of Moet champagne.

The most consistent and most damaging controversy, however, is the now infamous “party” and the death of “Strawberry”.

“Rumor” has it that a “wild party” was held at the mayor’s official residence, The Manoogian Mansion, on Labor Day weekend in 2002. “Rumor” because the mayor says the party “never happened”, the Michigan State Police say it “never happened” and after a five-week investigation, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said, “the party has all the earmarks of an urban legend and should be treated as such.”

This urban legend lingers because Tamara Greene, an exotic dancer who performed under the name “Strawberry”, was shot and killed in April 2003. “Legend” has it that the mayor’s wife, Carlita, came home unexpectedly. Upon discovering the party and the strippers, Mrs. Kilpatrick allegedly attacked and assaulted Greene. Word on the street is that a proper investigation would reveal the Kilpatricks’ involvement in Greene’s death. Tamara Greene was shot 18 times with the same .40 caliber bullets that are used in Detroit Police Department issue handguns. The shooter also wounded her boyfriend, but he wasn’t shot at, so it is believed he was not a target. Only Tamara was.

Former Detroit police Lieutenant Alvin Bowman stated in a sworn affidavit, filed on March 1, 2008, that he believes a Detroit police officer killed Tamara Greene. Bowman claims his investigation of Greene’s murder was derailed, and he was transferred out of the homicide division.

The mayor’s troubles came to a head most recently when he asked the city to pay an out of court settlement to former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown and Kilpatrick’s ex-bodyguard Harold Nelthorpe both of whom claimed they were fired for investigating the mayor’s personal actions. During the trial, evidence surfaced that Kilpatrick had a sexual relationship with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Both Kilpatrick and Beatty denied the affair during the trial, but The Detroit Free Press obtained text messages that indicated otherwise. This has exposed the mayor and his former chief to possible felony perjury charges. Beatty has since resigned.

Since 2004 city attorneys have been able to keep secret an $8.4 million deal that prevented records of the text messages from becoming public. The release of those documents prompted the city council’s discussion of a resolution asking for Kilpatrick’s resignation.

Is it all over for Kwame Kilpatrick? Don’t count him out just yet. Pundits sounded the death knell for Kilpatrick’s political career when he became the first incumbent mayor to finish second in a primary ballot. Kwame went on to win a close general election and gain a second term.

Only time will tell whether Mayor Kilpatrick will reverse trajectory, and return to his rising star status. Right now, his chances look bleak. But then, just a few short months ago, there weren’t many people who believed America had a realistic chance of electing an African-American president.

Time will tell.

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Blogger Paul Hue said...

Very well-written, but (of course, "but") a few errata:

1. The Michigan State Police did not conclude that the party never happened. Instead, its investigators claim that the state AG tied their hands and cut their investigation short. At least two of those cops are now telling the news media that they believe the party happened, and that further investigating would have uncovered confirmation of that.

2. Strawberry was shot only three times.

3. The assault allegations about Kwame's wife include use of an object, either a pistol or "wooden object", depending on the source.

4. One of the fired cops believes that the party happened, and that a Detroit cop killed Strawberry. At least three cops are on record (including him and the other two who sued) stating that Kwame and his official agents worked to halt the investigation.

5. One of those cops was investigating a variety of allegations against Kwame and members of his security detail, including: padding hours, driving city cars drunk and crashing the cars and covering it up, assaulting people while on duty, and violating policy and comprimising themselves to facilitate Kwame's assignations.

6. Allegations (now confirmed) of the Kwame-Beatty dalliance were integral to the civil case by the cops because it served as one motivation for Kwame firing them: to protect uncovery of the dalliance.

March 12, 2008 2:22 PM  
Blogger Paul Hue said...

So, Nadir, what is your opinion about Kwame? Not your opinion about how he might "regain status as a rising star", but your opinion of him as a mayor?

There is a big difference between his long shot and Barak's: Barak did nothing dastardly to overcome.

Kwame has wronged a great city, and the time has come for people like you and me to form and express an opinion. I say arrest and imprison him, and fire and recall him, and find some upstanding, moral citizen to take his place.

March 12, 2008 2:24 PM  

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