Secretly recorded video prompts Duggan, wife to defend marriage

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News
Detroit Mayor Jim Duggan and his wife, Lori Maher

Detroit — A businessman locked in a legal battle with the city hired a private investigator to trail and secretly record Mayor Mike Duggan's personal life for months. What was uncovered was then broadcast outside of City Hall on a billboard truck for all of Detroit to see.

The video shows Duggan driving himself without his personal protection unit after work hours to a home in Novi, where he spends between a few minutes to a few hours on numerous occasions over the summer. A woman seen on the video is present at the home at least two different times. 

During visits on June 18 and July 9, the baseball-capped mayor is seen pulling into the garage of the home. The garage door shuts behind him on the June visit. During a visit on July 23, the mayor arrives just before 10 p.m. before leaving an hour later.

A car identified as Mayor Mike Duggan's is seen arriving at the Novi home of a woman on July 9 in this frame from a secretly recorded video.

The recordings were distributed to The Detroit News and other news organizations and prompted the mayor and his wife on Thursday to defend their marriage.

"It speaks for itself," the businessman, Robert Carmack, told The Detroit News on Thursday. "This shows the character that I feel that this mayor is. You don't drive all the way to Wixom (exit on I-96) every week to see someone to have a conversation with. It's just common sense."

Carmack — who owns a Detroit auto shop on Michigan Avenue — is the central figure in a federal bribery case against Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland. The city sued Carmack in June on claims he fraudulently sold 10 acres of industrial property he didn't own near the Detroit River in southwest Detroit and flipped the land for a $750,000 profit. The businessman also filed his own suit this spring against Leland, claiming the councilman attempted to extort him.

Carmack wore a recording device during conversations with Leland in which the councilman allegedly agreed to accept $15,000 and free car repairs from Carmack in exchange for Leland's efforts to delay or prevent the sale of property. 

Carmack told The News on Thursday that he hired the private investigator to "investigate the people that I was suing" and added that he's attempting to have specific people, including Duggan, participate in depositions in that lawsuit.

"I hired a private investigator to find out what Mike Duggan does at night," he said.

Duggan and his wife, Lori Maher, released a statement Thursday after Carmack publicly displayed the surveillance footage of the mayor. It was displayed on a billboard truck that was parked outside City Hall for about an hour between around 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"A litigant, angry to be losing a case to the Detroit Law Department, apparently decided to retaliate by hiring private investigators to follow the mayor without his knowledge for several months.  And in the end, their surveillance failed to uncover a single misdeed in the management of the city," the Thursday statement from Duggan and his wife reads. 

"If that terrible invasion of privacy weren’t enough, it got worse," the statement continues. "This same angry litigant then took individual videos of cars driving, spliced them together, and added assumptions and insinuations, all so he could create a negative judgment on the state of our marriage."

When asked whether Duggan admits the claims made by Carmack, his spokesman, John Roach, said the mayor's office wouldn't be releasing anything beyond the statement.

The statement further reads: "We decided to write this statement together because we are proud of the marriage we’ve built over 32 years, proud that our bond today remains strong, and proud of our goal to spend the rest of our lives together.

"When you elect a public official you have every right to pass judgment on their performance in office.  But you don’t get the right to pry into their personal lives, or demand information on their marriage. At least that’s how we feel and why we don’t  answer questions about ours."

Carmack said the ongoing litigation with the city aims to have him tossed out of his auto shop building. 

"I ain't angry about nothing. We're in litigation. He has his story; I have my story," said Carmack, noting he's been trying to do a land development deal with the city for nearly 15 years. "I hired somebody that would go find out the facts about the people that I'm suing. If he (Duggan) is a public official, he's under public scrutiny." 

Carmack's attorney, Andrew Paterson, released a statement Thursday stressing that the residents of the city "deserve to know whether their elected officials are truly ethical and honest in every aspect of their public life."

"The citizens of Detroit deserve to have ethical leadership," he said.