Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick meets with the media in his office on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005. Voters gave Kilpatrick the second chance he asked for in a come-from-behind victory, although he said he recognized that his tough re-election bid sent many supporters fleeing. The charismatic 35-year-old avoided becoming the first Detroit mayor since 1961 to be defeated for re-election. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
By Zenobia Jeffries
Special to the NNPA from The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Until the lion tells his story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
This African proverb has been a running theme for African Americans since their existence in the New World. It’s no different today, especially for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Recognizing that even with the multitude of press Kipatrick has received since his entrance into public service almost a decade ago, the disgraced mayor’s story was yet to be told in his own words. In his book, “Surrendered: The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Malik Kilpatrick!” released this month with journalist Khary Kimani Turner, Kilpatrick finally gets to tell his story — “unreported, uneditorialized and uninterrupted.”
What many remember most about Kilpatrick, the youngest person elected as mayor in the nation’s history, at age 31, is that he lied on stand during a whistleblower lawsuit about an affair he had with his former chief of staff. The moment began his downfall. Since, his name has become synonymous with scandal.
In his book, Kilpatrick, recounts not only what many remember in sound bites, but gives context to the buzzwords — sext messaging, pay-to-play, Navigator, Manoogian party — used in the now infamous media takedown.
Kilpatrick successfully makes himself the subject — not the object — of his story by giving personalized accounts of his relationship and history with his chief of staff and friend Christine Beatty; his relationship with his administrative team and the metro Detroit business community, contractors, his constituency and the city he was born to love, Detroit. More importantly, Kilpatrick gets intimate about his relationship to his family and his wife in particular. So much so, Carlita Kilpatrick has a chapter “discussing” her husband and the scandal from her point of view, an unusual dimension since the role of political spouses is more often than not silence.
The book is saturated with a redemptive overtone that tends to relay the renewed spiritual connection Kilpatrick has developed. It’s through this lens that he speaks to what happened to him, not declaring innocence in his actions but the unfairness in how the events surrounding those actions were handled.
Kilpatrick’s case — the whistleblower lawsuit brought against the city, by current Detroit City Council Pro-Tem Gary Brown, who was a police officer at the time, along with another officer — was not only tried in a court of law, it was tried in the media, by the media and for the media. He describes this in detail. From the partnership Brown’s attorney and friend, Michael Stefani, had with The Detroit Free Press and its reporters to the judge’s change of ruling and court decorum — not only in the whistleblower case, but those that would follow.
According to Kilpatrick, Stefani used another Executive Protection Unit (EPU) member’s lawsuit — separate from Brown’s — to spice up his own, which Kilpatrick says had grown “stale” after the Attorney General’s “expensive investigation” on the car accidents turned up nothing and failed to interest anyone.
That EPU member, Walt Harris, claimed Kilpatrick had him drive around the city so the former mayor could meet up with women to have sex with them. Kilpatrick called his stories “sexy” and “descriptive” and ones that apparently only Harris had witnessed.
It was Harris’ statement that Kilpatrick and Beatty used their two-way pagers “all the time” that Kilpatrick notes changed the dynamics of the case “and the way it was reported.”
It was this, he believes, that slowly switched the focus from “wrongful termination to sex, affairs and cover-ups.”
Kilpatrick maintains in his book that Brown didn’t do the job he was asked to do.
“And that’s why I took it from him,” he writes. “I’d never encountered the level of treachery that Gary Brown displayed and, to this day, I have no idea what I did to warrant it.”
Kilpatrick recognizes his wrongdoing — the affair — throughout the book and there tends to be a consistent apologetic tone, but more to his wife and God.
He also expresses remorse surrounding his role in Beatty’s hardship following the suit.
It’s apparent when he mentions Beatty that there’s a friendship between the two that supersedes the “salacious nature” we’ve come to see, although he himself calls the exchanges “lewd.”
To read Kilpatrick’s book only for the account of the scandal is not enough. It’s his description of the city’s business, contracts, and the players involved that makes it a worthy read.
There’s always been somewhat of an underlying question in the midst of the Kilpatrick scandal: Who the hell did he piss off to bring this level of scrutiny?
This question could be answered in Kilpatrick’s account of visits by Detroit attorney Reggie Turner on behalf of the area’s powerful Jewish community. Kilpatrick’s General Counsel Sharon McPhail angered many organizations when she set out to improve the placement rates for groups receiving Workforce Development funds. She required recipients to reapply for their funding and submit detailed strategies to improve placement rates.
The Jewish Vocational Services, who received $25 million from the city in workforce funds, had only a two percent placement rate. They were cut.
According to Kilpatrick, the February 2007 Savior’s Day, an important event for African Americans, at Ford Field with Nation of Islam national leader Louis Farrakhan was also an offense to the Jewish community.
Another tension was the withdrawal of $90 million from Comerica Bank, which he believed was charging exorbitant fees, to place in First Independence, which happens to be the only bank in the city owned by African Americans. Comerica’s board members believed it was a slap in the face.
Kilpatrick, with his in-your-face approach, boasts of the progress his administration made. “Trash pick-ups,” new parks, new businesses downtown, are on this list.
“I don’t think anybody understands it, but I do believe that the people in Detroit can truly see and feel the effects of people being in office who are not working as hard as we were,” the former mayor writes.
Overall, Kilpatrick does attempt to fill in the blanks and the rather large gaps left by corporate media.
He details the breakdown of his friendship with Derek Miller and the feeling of betrayal when Miller spent time with those Kilpatrick knew did not wish him well — one of those persons being former City Council member Shelia Cockrel. He points out the way in which Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy approaches his case as a personal attack. He acknowledges those businessmen who helped him during the trials. He calls out those local and state politicians, some currently holding seats, who used him to further their own agendas — City Council member Ken Cockrel, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, to name a few.
Kilpatrick reveals a flawed human being — one sharing a personal and personable story — his own.