The Duggan administration made national headlines last week, but it wasn’t for anything the Mayor will use in his next “State of the City” address.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and his team were named the most secretive publicly funded agency or person in the country by the Investigative Reporters and Editors journalism association, earning its “Golden Padlock” award.
The group cited the administration’s handling of public documents having to do with Make Your Date, a maternal health organization that worked with the city to fight infant mortality.
A Free Press investigation in 2019 showed how the administration directed $358,000 in city grant to Make Your Date and had staff raise money for the nonprofit, which is led by a woman with ties to Duggan. During the course of its investigation, the Free Press learned that the administration had attempted to hide and delete public documents.
The group’s chair Robert Cribb said the award to the Duggan administration is a reminder of how far city officials will go to protect themselves.
The Duggan administration blew it off as a mistake or technical error. What some knew then — and was validated last week with the award — was the administration purposely withheld crucial information from the public.
That’s shameful for an administration that prides itself on protecting the city’s image, works diligently to show that the politics of the past are gone and chastised reporters for their stories on the city’s web site.
After the city’s Inspector General investigated and found that the administration ordered staffers to delete emails, Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley, Chief Development Officer Ryan Friedrichs and his deputy, Sirene Abou-Chakra were slapped on the wrist. Wiley was given public records training and the two others were ordered training on document management, the Freedom of Information Act and laws about preserving records. Now they have an award from the nation’s largest investigative journalism association.
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But the Duggan administration is hardly alone. Its situation is simply the latest of local and national officials who have been criticized for failing to release information to the public.
Just look at some of the headlines from the last week.
As news of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis unfolded, there was little transparency from the administration. A Saturday morning press conference raised questions about the President’s condition and the timeline of his illness.
On Sept. 27, the New York Times dropped information about Trump’s taxes, which revealed he paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. The public had been waiting on the records since Trump was on the campaign trail for his first term in office.
Trump also paid no income taxes in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made, according to the