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Activist asks judge to impanel grand jury over deleted Make Your Date emails

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Litigious activist Robert Davis is asking a judge to impanel a one-man grand jury to investigate whether an order to delete emails given by three city aides involving a controversial nonprofit constituted misconduct.

The Tuesday filing in Wayne County Circuit Court is asking the court's chief judge to determine whether there's probable cause to order a determination on whether Mayor Mike Duggan’s chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, and two other trusted aides — Detroit Chief Development Officer Ryan Friedrichs and Deputy Chief Development Officer Sirene Abou-Chakra — are guilty of violations of misconduct in office, perjury and the unlawful removal and destruction of public records pertaining to the Make Your Date nonprofit.

Robert Davis

"The findings and conclusions set forth in the Inspector General's report are very troubling," Davis said in a Tuesday statement. "So troubling, that I believe it is necessary for a one-man grand jury to be convened because it is apparent  from the Inspector General's findings and Mayor Mike Duggan's incriminating admission that probable cause exists that Alexis Wiley, Ryan Friedrichs and Sirene Abou-Chakra committed a crime."

In response to Davis' request, Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia argued that every few months Davis files "outrageous requests like this one that consistently are denied because they are baseless."

"We expect this latest request will have a similar outcome," Garcia said.

The court filing comes after the city’s Office of Inspector General released a report last week concluding that Wiley, Friedrichs and Abou-Chakra had abused their authority by directing lower-level staff to delete emails involving the effort to stem preterm births in Detroit. 

Inspector General Ellen Ha concluded two grants staffers were directed to delete the emails "in an attempt to hide the amount of work done by the department to secure grant funding."

The program is headed by Dr. Sonia Hassan, who has been linked to Duggan.

Davis' court filing contends the documents were “undeniably public records” under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.  

Garcia said the OIG, in her report, "made no findings that any laws and ordinances or rules were broken."

"It’s unfortunate that a man who was sent to prison for embezzling from Highland Park school children now fancies himself as the guardian of the law," Garcia added.

Davis, who previously served 10 months in prison for stealing $200,000 from Highland Park Schools, said: "what happened in my past has nothing to do with the present."

Duggan, he said, is continuing "his campaign" to try to discredit Davis' work and "cloud the issue."

Ha's six-month probe also found that Duggan gave preferential treatment to the program by "unilaterally" directing city resources toward Make Your Date. But his actions, the investigation found, did not violate rules or rise to the level of an abuse of power.

Duggan has said the three aides made a mistake but acted with the best of intentions. They were trying to shield the grants office workers, he said, from the antics of city businessman Robert Carmack who had publicly broadcast private investigator footage of the mayor's comings and goings on a billboard truck.

The mayor said the three will undergo document management training in the wake of the incident.

On Tuesday, Ha noted that her review didn't take into account whether city procedures were violated. That is being investigated by the Public Integrity Unit of the state Attorney General's Office, she said.