March 14, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Kilpatrick 'shocked' by threatening letters, verbal tirades

DETROIT -- Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's office responded this morning to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's criticism of his use of a racial epithet in Tuesday night's State of the City address.

In the written statement issued this morning, Kilpatrick's Press Secretary Denise Tolliver explained the mayor felt compelled to use vivid terms to describe his dismay with what he says have been racially bigoted comments and threats of violence in the wake of a scandal that erupted over cell phone text messages between the mayor and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

"The Mayor shares the feeling of shock expressed by the Governor," this morning's statement from Tolliver said. "He's shocked people would send vile e-mails and letters threatening his family. Shocked people would bombard his office with calls berating his staff with the n-word. Shocked people would attack him for describing his experience in vivid terms rather than confront those who sent the bigoted messages. Having actually been called the n-word, the Mayor feels compelled to protect his family, and to expose and condemn bigotry in no uncertain terms."

The mayor's announcement was a response to Granholm's statement Thursday saying Granholm was "shocked" by Kilpatrick's choice to use "the n-word" near the end of the speech. Her complaint followed Attorney General Mike Cox's call on Wednesday for the embattled mayor's resignation because he interpreted Kilpatrick's comments as "race-baiting."

The messages had been kept secret as part of an $8.4 million settlement the City Council authorized to end whistle-blower lawsuits filed by police officers who claimed they were fired while investigating possible wrongdoing stemming from a long-rumored party at the mayor's Manoogian mansion. Beatty resigned her post Jan. 28 after The Free Press published some of the messages that indicate Beatty and the mayor may have lied under oath to hide a sexual affair.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has launched an investigation that could result in criminal charges. On Wednesday, Worthy delayed announcing her findings for two weeks based on "new evidence" that she declined to disclose. She expects to announce her conclusions the week of March 24.

City Council members on Thursday again expressed interest in holding a ceremonial vote to call for Kilpatrick's resignation. The council last week joined The Free Press and The Detroit News in a lawsuit that seeks copies of the text messages and other documents in sealed court files that they claim were withheld from them before they authorized settlement of the lawsuits.

On Wednesday, Cox told Lloyd Jackson on WJR's "Big Story" that Kilpatrick "is not fit to be mayor anymore." On Thursday, Cox said he will reopen his investigation of possible criminal acts at a rumored Manoogian mansion party. The Attorney General's prior investigation found no witnesses and concluded the gathering was an "urban legend." But, Cox said his investigators will interview a retired Detroit police Department clerk who recently claimed she saw an undisclosed police report about the incident.

You can reach Doug Guthrie at (734) 462-2674 or dguthrie@detnews.com">dguthrie@detnews.com.