February 5, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Kilpatrick takes on 'the Big D' in style

This home in Southlake, Texas was rented to a C.E. Kilpatrick. (Jenson Walker Special to The Detroit News)

DETROIT -- Kwame Kilpatrick owes the city nearly $1 million in restitution, but some are wondering if he's determined to continue his VIP lifestyle now that he's out of jail.

His wife and children have moved into a Texas enclave considered one of the nation's richest, he was escorted from jail by a phalanx of bodyguards driving flashy SUVs and his mother foot the $13,500 bill for a privately chartered Lear jet to be reunited with his family in suburban Dallas.

"I was proud to pay for my son's flight to begin a new life in Texas," U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick said in a statement Wednesday.

No matter who's paying, some Detroiters are upset.

"It's sickening -- this guy cost the city so much money, but he does a few weeks in jail, then he goes off scot-free to go live in a mansion, while the people in Detroit are left to clean up his messes," said southwestern Detroit resident David Francisco, 49.

Over the years, Kilpatrick was paid $1.1 million in salary as mayor, a free home, chauffeurs and few expenses.

Now, neighbors say they've seen Kilpatrick's wife, Carlita, in the Dallas suburb of Southlake, Texas, whose median household income is $173,000. In December, a woman named C.E. Kilpatrick leased a four-bedroom, nearly 3,000 square-foot home with a swimming pool on a thickly wooded half-acre. Rent was listed as $2,950 per month on a real estate Web site.

"I think most people in Detroit would like to live in a place like that," said Francisco.

Kilpatrick had a job interview Wednesday with an undisclosed employer, said his attorney, James C. Thomas. The company's board of directors is expected to vote today on whether to hire the ex-mayor.

Kilpatrick, who served 99 days for three felonies related to the text-message scandal, has paid $20,000 in cash at sentencing and another $6,750 toward his restitution. It's part of a five-year probation that also includes a ban on seeking public office and the forfeiture of his law license.

Still, some, including Detroit resident John Tully, say the former mayor should tone down his lifestyle.

"If he's making $500,000 a year with this new job, then $3,000 a month for a house is nothing," Tully said. "Still it's sending the wrong message because he still owes the city so much."

Nation of Islam security

Despite appearances of high living, not all of Kilpatrick's expenses are coming out of his pocket, as was the case with his private flight.

Kilpatrick's bodyguards, who held back the media throng when he was released from the Wayne County Jail early Tuesday, are being provided free of charge by members of the Nation of Islam, said Malik Shabazz, a longtime Kilpatrick confidant and leader of the New Marcus Garvey Movement/Black Panther Nation.

The Nation of Islam, which also provided security when he was sentenced to jail in September, has helped the former mayor over the years. Its leader, Louis Farrakhan, reportedly visited Kilpatrick in jail, but Shabazz said he doubts Kilpatrick has converted.

"He was always spiritual," Shabazz said. "He would always quote God. He's a believer in God."

The Nation of Islam provided security to Kilpatrick because "he's been receiving death threats, and his family has received death threats," Shabazz said.

Representatives for the Nation of Islam did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Friends remain quiet

Those closest to Kilpatrick remain tight-lipped about any pending interviews or how the family is surviving.

Kandia Milton, a childhood friend and former deputy mayor, declined to discuss the ex-mayor's plans for the future.

DeDan Milton, a brother of Kandia Milton's and another former Kilpatrick appointee who was outside the jail on Tuesday, would only say "the mayor's getting along fine."

Two of Kilpatrick's longtime backers -- Compuware CEO Peter Karmanos and trucking magnate Matty Moroun -- have business interests in Texas, but both denied through representatives they are considering Kilpatrick.

"We wish the mayor well," said Dan Stamper, Moroun's spokesman. "He and his family have been through a lot."

Likewise, former Mayor Dennis Archer, who is on Compuware's board of directors, said Kilpatrick isn't being considered. Ditto for Comerica, Potter's House mega-church and the city of Dallas.

But Kilpatrick needs a job. The former mayor known for custom-made suits and an appetite for luxury has bills to pay.

State records indicate his only registered vehicles are a 2003 Harley Davidson Road King and a 2007 Chrysler Aspen, a car that sells for about $30,000.

If he wanted to continue health care coverage for his family under Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), he would have to pay for his wife, three children and himself, he'd have to shell out upward of $1,000 a month.

Maurice Wenzell, who moved to Dallas five years ago, said he and his wife have repeatedly seen Carlita Kilpatrick and her three sons at the upscale Central Market in Southlake.

"That is the place to be. Everyone has seen them around," said Wenzell, who noted that Southlake is also home to many active and former Dallas Cowboys football players. "I could see them fitting in well here."

Questions about money

It's entirely possible, however, that the Kilpatricks are living off money the family saved over the years.

Kilpatrick made about $176,000 a year as mayor, had vehicles and drivers supplied by the taxpayers and lived in the Manoogian Mansion, which was furnished, heated, maintained and supplied by the city.

The Kilpatricks recently took a $55,000 loss on the sale of their Florida vacation home, but made $151,500 on two Detroit homes they owned in 2002 and 2000, according to real estate records.

Kilpatrick's latest lawyer, Willie Gary is known as the "The Giant Killer" for suing big companies.

But he usually works on a contingency basis, charging no money to clients unless they win, according to his Web site.

Gary is traveling for several days but is expected to give out a general statement by the end of the week that may address his finances, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

There are also questions about the cash from his mayoral re-election campaign.

His annual disclosure form, which was due on Monday, has still not been filed, and in 2007, it ended with a balance of $1.3 million.

Kilpatrick's advisers had hinted before that cash could be used to deal with some of the fallout from the text-message scandal.

His wife, Carlita Kilpatrick, worked intermittently.

In 2003, she earned $22,666 for part-time marketing work at the Next Vision Foundation, which was founded by members of her husband's family; and while her husband was still in the legislature, she received $175,000 in state grant money for character education and conflict resolution skills sessions to Detroit students.

Detroit News Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming contributed to this report. You can reach George Hunter at (313) 222-2134 or ghunter@detnews.com">ghunter@detnews.com.

The nearly 3,000-square-feet home was listed for rent at $2,950 per month ... (Jenson Walker / Special to The Detroit News)