February 13, 2009 at 10:32 am

Kilpatrick backer now his employer

Compuware's Karmanos gives disgraced mayor fresh start with Covisint; judge must OK move.

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick flew last week to Southlake, Texas, where his family moved. (Khampha Bouaphanh / Special to The Detroit News)

DETROIT -- Peter Karmanos supported and defended Kwame Kilpatrick through controversies and even the spectacular scandal that forced the former mayor from office and put him behind bars for 99 days.

Now, the chairman of Compuware has given Kilpatrick a job that may serve as a new start for the man and his family in Texas. The job also may be the city's best hope for recovering at least a fraction of the cost of the text message scandal through payment of $1 million in court-ordered restitution.

Kilpatrick will work for Covisint, an affiliate of Detroit-based Compuware that has business in the health care industry, Kilpatrick's criminal lawyer James C. Thomas confirmed on Thursday.

Karmanos told Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson of his intention to hire Kilpatrick in October while at a political fundraiser for Karmanos' wife, who was running for a seat on Wayne State University's board.

"He said, 'I am going to offer him a job when he gets out of jail,' " Patterson said Thursday. "I said he was radioactive. But he said he's a guy with immense talent and that's the kind of people he wants on his team."

Covisint develops secure computer networks that help companies share data and information. What Kilpatrick will do for the company in Texas and how much he will be paid hasn't been disclosed.

Covisint's Web site doesn't list any offices in Texas. Compuware has sales offices in Addison, near Dallas, and in Houston.

Kilpatrick failed on Thursday to win permission from the judge overseeing his five-year probation for a quick trip back to Dallas today for orientation and training.

His lawyers had filed an emergency motion for out-of-state travel, but Wayne Circuit Judge David Groner set a hearing on the matter for Feb. 24, 11 days after Kilpatrick's new employer planned to fly "team members" from around the nation to prepare the new recruit for his job.

It also is the same day as the city's primary election to narrow the field of 18 candidates for mayor.

Kilpatrick's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, said Thursday he knew about a job offer, but his son hadn't told him for whom he would be working. Kilpatrick's father said the opportunity will "absolutely" help his son start a new life.

"It's a great thing," Bernard Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick's wife and children moved to the Dallas suburb of Southlake last month and the ex-mayor flew there last week on the same day he was released from jail. He got permission from Groner to interview in Texas for an undisclosed job.

Karmanos moved Compuware's corporate headquarters to downtown Detroit in 1999, before Kilpatrick took office. The company's massive new headquarters building is the linchpin of Campus Martius Park, one of downtown's most successful redevelopment areas.

The Compuware founder has long been a staunch supporter of Kilpatrick.

Early in the scandal, Karmanos called Kilpatrick Detroit's best mayor in 25 years. He continued to defend him, even when Kilpatrick was under intense pressure to resign.

In August, Karmanos played an active role in trying to broker a deal in the then-unresolved text message scandal, meeting with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and community leaders. Within a month of that meeting, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to four felony counts and agreed to resign.

At that time, Karmanos shared privately with several people that he was considering hiring Kilpatrick as a potential lobbyist or business development executive in Washington.

Karmanos also has been a big contributor to Kilpatrick's political campaigns, pouring tens of thousands of dollars into them. Karmanos gave $100,000 to Kilpatrick's Generations political action committee in October 2005, the single largest donation.

For Karmanos, who typically backs Republicans and Republican causes, the 2005 donation to Kilpatrick stands out for its size and because it went to a Democrat.

It came after Kilpatrick had been upset in the primary and was behind in his race with Freman Hendrix.

At Compuware headquarters on Thursday, water cooler conversations were dominated by talk of the company's new hire. Many expressed outrage, especially following news on Tuesday that the company had laid off 250 employees. Those who spoke with News reporters did so on condition that their names wouldn't be published.

"It does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling," said one longtime employee.

Yahoo Finance's message board for Compuware was bristling with criticism Thursday over the Kilpatrick hiring. One contributor, cwpr_300, wrote: "... hard working, dedicated employees were laid off, but now [Compuware] has a celeb with no PC / heath care experience. It just makes me wonder. I do wish the best of luck to the existing & current employees."

Former Mayor Dennis Archer, a member of the Compuware board of directors, said last week that the company wouldn't hire Kilpatrick. He didn't return a call for comment Thursday.

Karmanos was scheduled to be interviewed at 6:30 a.m. today on the Paul W. Smith show on WJR radio.

Kilpatrick's chances at long-term employment may depend on federal authorities who continue to investigate Kilpatrick, his father and members and supporters of his administration over allegations of corruption in municipal contracting.

Matt Friedman of the Farmington Hills public relations firm Tanner Friedman, wrote Thursday on the company's blog that employees are concerned that hiring a man convicted of lying under oath and jailed after admitting to multiple legal and ethical breaches is a violation of the company's ethics policy.

"Never mind a company shooting itself in the foot," Friedman wrote. "This is a company breaking its own legs."

You can reach Doug Guthrie at (313) 222-2548.

Kilpatrick, on probation for five years, failed Thursday to get a judge to ... (Khampha Bouaphanh / Special to The Detroit News)