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Fired Detroit police board secretary last left in bid to lead city charter commission

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit — The only person left in the running Wednesday night to head the Detroit charter revision commission is a former city police commissioner who was fired last year amid an investigation that alleged he improperly hired staffers.

The commission is slated to meet at 10 a.m. Friday to determine if another candidate will be selected to compete with Gregory Hicks for the executive director position, Commissioner Richard Mack said.

Gregory Hicks

During a virtual meeting Wednesday night, Mack and the other commission members interviewed Hicks after talking to another candidate, Shari Williams, a senior program manager at the nonprofit Detroit Future City.

Both fielded questions from the panel about their job experience and qualifications for the leadership role before the commission was expected to finalized its selection.

But shortly after being interviewed, Williams ended her bid. She had earlier faced questions from at least one commissioner about her employer having possible ties to another commission member's work.

In his interview, Hicks noted he had more than 30 years of experience working in nonprofits and government services, and previously led the charter commission when the city charter was revised in 2012.

Hicks, an appointee of former Mayor Coleman Young and Wayne County Commission Chairman Ricardo Solomon, was named to the position in 2010.

When asked about the advantages he would bring to the commission Wednesday night, Hicks told the members he knew how to go through the state approval process and anticipate setbacks as well as mount a successful campaign to educate residents.

"Since that time, I've had that occasion to discuss and talk with other charter commissions informally around the state who thought our process in 2012 was an effective process," he said.

Shari Williams

Then Hicks brought up his termination in December from the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, where he had been its secretary.

The police board voted unanimously to remove him nearly two months after a report produced from a year-long probe by the city's inspector general alleged he had improperly hired "key staff members" and lied during an investigation that, the report said, he tried to impede.

Among the findings in the investigation: Hicks purposefully changed the minimum qualifications for the board's official posting for an executive manager. The description had required a four-year college degree but was amended to reflect only "knowledge and experience" to benefit Robert Brown, who had worked for the board for more than a decade, and enable him to qualify, according to the report.

The report also found that the police oversight board "abused its authority" by delegating hiring power to the secretary.

Hicks has disputed the findings of the report and said he didn't abuse his authority.

On Wednesday night, he told the charter commission the board fired him "because in my view, I was fairly aggressive in trying to implement the elements of the Detroit city charter as it relates to the board police commission and its relationship to the Police Department."

Hicks said he has since filed a lawsuit against the city and pointed out, if selected to lead the commission, he would not be a Detroit employee.

"I wanted you all to know because I believe that your staff should be very direct with you and you should not hear something out on the street from your staff if they’re involved in it," he said.

The charter commission on Wednesday did not discuss his comments on his firing.

Before Williams dropped out, the members said they planned to further review both candidates and narrow their choice down during another meeting Saturday. Mack said the commission is expected to post information about meeting on Friday.