Duggan (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
Lansing— The Detroit mayoral candidates have sparred for weeks about what role Mike Duggan played in Detroit’s emergency manager selection, and a Snyder administration explanation this week of the chain of events added no clarity to the issue.
February emails from former state Treasuer Andy Dillon and Gov. Rick Snyder adviser Rich Baird, obtained in July through a Freedom of Information request by labor activist Robert Davis, do not conclusively clarify Duggan’s role.
The Snyder administration says mayoral candidate Duggan wasn’t among the contenders to become Detroit’s emergency manager, but was considered for that role at the Detroit Public Schools.
“Duggan was never an EM candidate for the city of Detroit job,” Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said in an email response to a lawsuit filed last week in Lansing by Davis, whose American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 25 backs Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon over Duggan.
Wurfel said Duggan “was consulted and talked-with, too — just like numerous others including Benny Napoleon.” She added Duggan, the former Detroit Medical Center CEO, “had certainly voiced his concern and opposition to the concept of an EM.”
In a rare interview published Wednesday by the Michigan Chronicle, Snyder chief of staff Dennis Muchmore also was quoted as saying Duggan wasn’t considered for the Detroit EM slot.
According to the interview, the Detroit Public Schools emergency manager job was discussed with Duggan. The former deputy Wayne County executive wasn’t interested, the story quotes Muchmore as saying.
The school emergency manager job was accepted by Jack Martin, an accountant.
Napoleon, who finished second to Duggan in the Aug. 6 primary, has made the issue a key part of his campaign.
During Tuesday’s televised debate, Napoleon claimed Duggan was part of a “conspiracy” to drive the city into bankruptcy court and supported the appointment of an emergency manager. Duggan maintained he rejected overtures from the Snyder administration to be an emergency manager candidate and argued for the state to avoid appointing such a manager.
Napoleon has speculated redacted portions of emails from state officials — if they become public — 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.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Maria Oxholm, responding to a separate Davis lawsuit, recently ruled the state must release the names of candidates who made Snyder’s and Dillon’s final cut for Detroit emergency manager. Oxholm ordered the state Treasury Department to provide her with copies of the unredacted February email records under seal, court records show.
Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office hasn’t indicated whether he intends to appeal.
The February redacted emails given to Davis don’t provide a completely clear picture of Duggan’s role.
In one, 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 by Baird — who helped recruit Orr, a Washington, D.C., bankruptcy attorney, for the emergency manager post — said he 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.
Baird contributed $2,500 to Duggan’s campaign in January.