City Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)
Detroit — An attorney for Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. urged the public Tuesday to focus on his positive contributions to the city, not a recent traffic stop that’s entangled him in two separate internal investigations.
“The court of public opinion is very tough. We’ve had a week or so of allegations thrown about. I’d ask that you judge this man based on what he does at the end of four years,” Todd Russell Perkins, an attorney for Cushingberry, told reporters. “ He’s a man who speaks with knowledge. Judge him on what he does on the City Council.”
The remarks from Perkins came after Cushingberry briefly addressed the media, touting several proposed ordinances he says would streamline operations and conserve money for the financially-struggling city.
The former state lawmaker and Wayne County commissioner then said he’s paid off several hundred dollars in parking tickets owed to the city. The fines had resulted in a hold on his license that would have prevented it from being renewed when it expires in 2016, according to officials with the Michigan Secretary of State.
Cushingberry’s license was briefly suspended in 2012 because of an unpaid ticket. That matter was later resolved, state officials said.
Perkins says the councilman “has satisfied his financial obligations with the parking bureau.” Mayor Mike Duggan’s spokesman John Roach said the city’s parking department confirmed that Cushingberry’s tickets were settled early Tuesday.
On Friday, Detroit’s Inspector General’s office announced it was launching an investigation into Cushingberry’s interactions with Detroit Police during a traffic stop last week that sources said involved alcohol and marijuana.
The investigation by Inspector General James Heath will mark the first of an elected official since the office was created in 2012. Under the new city charter, Heath is empowered to conduct an investigation, subpoena witnesses, order the production of documents and take testimony.
If Heath concludes his findings warrant potential criminal proceedings, the matter will be referred to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
He could also recommend the City Council initiate forfeiture proceedings. In that case, the council would have to adopt by a two-thirds vote a resolution for the removal. Cushingberry would be entitled to a public hearing to argue against the dismissal.
The Detroit Police Department also is conducting an investigation into a police supervisor’s handling of the stop. The supervisor allowed the council member to drive away with a traffic citation, although other police sources familiar with the situation said Cushingberry led officers on a chase near a northwest-side strip club. There was an open intoxicant in his car and a heavy scent of marijuana was present, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Cushingberry, 61, has said the stop was racially motivated — an allegation that police have denied.
Last week, Cushingberry asked his fellow council members to “please forgive me” if they were “embarrassed by the driving while black incident.” He’s said there was an empty bottle of rum in his back seat from a party the week prior and that the drug was not smoked in his car and was being carried by a passenger with a medical marijuana license.
Perkins said Cushingberry has not yet been contacted for questioning about either investigation. There also hasn’t been a case number provided for the traffic ticket, which Cushingberry has said he may dispute.
Perkins says he does not foresee charges being levied against Cushingberry, but if they do arise “we’ll be ready to deal with that and defend that.”