Democratic Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced his chief of staff Alexis Wiley and two other city employees – Chief Development Officer Ryan Friedrichs and Deputy Chief Development Officer Sirene Abou-Chakra – will undergo training as a punishment for deleting emails detailing the city’s relationship with a nongovernmental organization (NGO).
“I have directed that Ms. Wiley, Mr. Friedrichs and Ms. Abou-Chakra undergo training that Mr. Garcia will be running, relative to document management, FOIA law, document retention law to make sure that they are fully versed in these programs,” he said. “They made a mistake in judgment. There’s no question about that in what they did. I believe this is the appropriate action to be taken.”
On Monday, Detroit’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that found Duggan provided “preferential treatment” to a nonprofit organization at Wayne State University called Make Your Date (MYD) by directing city resources to it. Furthermore, the report showed Wiley ordered the two Detroit Office of Development and Grants (ODG) employees to delete emails pertaining to the NGO that dealt with trying to reduce preterm birth rates.
In explaining his decision, Duggan cited that the three staff members did not break any laws and had the “best intentions” when they made the decision to delete dozens of emails Duggan also said these staff members were trying to protect young employees and called them “outstanding public servants.”
Detroit’s mayor also said it was “unfair” that the report omitted the city’s efforts once they learned about the deleted emails back in May.
The report had recommended the City of Detroit to punish Wiley, Friedrichs and Abou-Chakra for their actions.
The six-month investigation found it “troubling” that the city employees deleted emails talking about MYD.
“Ms. Wiley, Mr. Friedrichs, and Ms. Abou-Chakra abused their authority by ordering their subordinates to delete emails related to MYD. These actions show a blatant disregard for transparency and good governance. It also showed a profound lack of judgment by all involved,” the investigation says.
In terms of the mayor, the report concluded his actions did not rise to an abuse of power level, but rather his action were not done in best practice nor in good governance.
“The selection of MYD to partner with the City of Detroit as well as be the recipient of City resources was done in a manner that lacked fairness, openness, and transparency,” the report reads.
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