Mayoral candidate Mike Duggan, left, denied that he was a candidate for the emergency manager position, as Benny Napoleon, right, asserts. (The Detroit News)
Detroit —Mayoral candidates Benny Napoleon and Mike Duggan continued their war of words Monday about who is more opposed to the state’s emergency manager law and whether Duggan helped select the city’s emergency manager.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon revived his criticism of the role of the former Detroit Medical Center CEO in the emergency manager selection process during the first televised debate Sunday, speculating that redacted emails from state officials may show Duggan was a candidate for the post.
As he has said since July, Duggan denied his involvement in getting an emergency manager for Detroit.
“I lobbied the Snyder administration against the appointment,” Duggan said Monday. “I met with (Gov. Rick Synder’s chief of staff) Dennis Muchmore, (Snyder aide) Rich Baird (and state treasurer) Andy Dillon, and I urged all of them to stop the appointment of the emergency manager and allow the voters of Detroit to pick its next leader. I tried as hard as I could, and obviously the governor didn’t agree with me.”
The issue may receive more attention this morning when Wayne County Circuit Judge Maria Oxholm has scheduled a hearing to determine whether Gov. Rick Snyder can block the disclosure of internal emails and documents members of his administration exchanged last winter while deliberating over candidates for Detroit’s emergency manager.
Last week, Oxholm ordered the state Treasury Department to provide her with copies of the unredacted records under seal, court records show.
Emails that have been made public don’t provide a completely clear answer on Duggan’s role. In a series of emails from February, Richard Baird wrote Duggan made a “reasoned, logical and impassioned” plea to defer an emergency manager appointment until after the November election.
Baird wrote Duggan “is concerned that an EFM will make too many decisions to resolve the short term crisis in Detroit without regard to the long term.” The email adds Baird, who helped recruit Washington, D.C., bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr to be emergency manager, doesn't believe “the agenda and interests of the right EFM would diverge much from a proven turnaround leader like Duggan.”
“I would ask for your forbearance for a bit longer while the financial review team completes its work and engages with Mike,” Baird wrote. The recipient was blacked out.
In another email, Dillon writes to Baird that Duggan believed there was a role for an undisclosed candidate “but not the top spot.”
Napoleon argued Monday the emails show Duggan didn’t lobby against an emergency manager.
“He was lobbying the governor to postpone the emergency manager until November, which would have been politically advantageous to Duggan,” said Napoleon, who contends the state emergency manager law is illegal. “At the same time, he has told Detroit voters that he is against an emergency manager. It is the epitome of a back room deal and being dishonest with the voters.”
But political analyst Bill Ballenger said the issue shouldn’t hurt Duggan’s campaign. “That kind of issue was around before the primary. The last I looked he took 52 percent of the vote,” said Ballenger, publisher of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. “I don’t know what has happened or been exposed since then to make people decide we can’t accept this guy as mayor and vote for Benny Napoleon.”
Political analyst Steve Hood said the impact of this issue depends on the intensity of opposition to Orr, who recently announced health care changes for retirees and has proposed cutting pensions. He wonders why both candidates haven’t had a flurry of TV attack ads. “It’s an odd mayoral race,” he said.
On Friday, Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency motion on Snyder’s behalf seeking intervention in the lawsuit brought by activist Robert Davis.
A Michigan Court of Appeals panel and federal bankruptcy judge have blocked previous attempts by Davis and labor unions to force the Governor’s Office to disclose unredacted emails. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Governor’s Office is exempt from disclosing public records, but the Treasury Department is not.