How Kwame Kilpatrick's Arrogance Spawned a Reign of Corruption in Detroit


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He had already established that he was the chosen one. He had said he was sorry and, like the coddled child who believes that by uttering those words they will be forgiven of any transgression, he stayed put in office. Falling back repeatedly on the corrupt politician’s self-serving arsenal of God, flag, and family, Kilpatrick continued to pound his Bible and quote verses that let him off the hook. But the Bible also contains a well-known Proverb that he either had not read, ignored, or simply chose not to cite. It’s the one that predicts, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

“God’s guy” had gotten the cosmic ziggy, and the inference, often, was that he didn’t deserve it.

In Detroit leadership circles, he had plenty of company.

Two years after Kilpatrick was elected mayor, the feds handed down a 27-count indictment against then-City Councilwoman Kay Everett. She was accused of shaking down a city contractor for $150,000 in cash, vacations, and free meals, as well as demanding — and being presented with — 17 pounds of sausage worth $124.95. Everett died less than a month later of kidney disease. Upon her death, she was routinely praised as a dedicated public servant.

In August 2006, former city councilman and member of the Detroit Public Schools board, Alonzo “Lonnie” Bates — notorious for financing his penchant for the high life on the taxpayers’ nickel — drew a 33-month jail sentence for bank fraud and theft. Indeed, his nickname while in public office was “Two-Lunch Lonnie,” so given by begrudging businesspeople seeking his influence or vote. As it played out time and again, Bates would order one lunch to eat and one lunch to go, without ever picking up the tab. Surprisingly, a Detroit public school continues to bear his name.

Early last year, Monica Conyers — former city councilwoman, Detroit pension fund trustee and, for a brief time, council president pro tem — was sentenced to more than three years in prison after pleading guilty to a shakedown scheme. She and her bagman, Sam Riddle — who, like Bernard Kilpatrick, referred to himself as a “political consultant” — collected nearly $70,000 in bribes for her votes on the council. She quit the council after pleading guilty to bribery, but at sentencing tried to withdraw her plea, saying, “I may be guilty of extortion, but I never took a bribe.” Even after admitting her guilt, however she defined it, and resigning from City Council, she continued to take calls from supporters on her local cable-TV show, Ask the Councilwoman with Monica Conyers. “I’m not going to not do my show,” she said.

Riddle — variously called “The Riddler,” the “Mouth that Roared,” and just plain Sam — managed to encapsulate nearly everything wrong with Detroit in one oft-quoted sentence:

“The only difference between Detroit and Third World nations in terms of corruption is that there are no goats in the streets in Detroit.” He was in a unique position to know.

Having served as a consultant to Everett, and later to Monica Conyers, Riddle was indicted last July on charges of bribery, extortion, conspiracy, mail fraud, and making false statements to the FBI.

Indicted with him was a former member of the Michigan House, Mary Waters, who was gingerly described by the local press as Riddle’s “domestic partner.” The charges arose from a scheme to grease the skids for a Detroit pawnshop’s move to suburban Southfield.

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