Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan marries Wayne State Dr. Sonia Hassan in Florida
Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan and Dr. Sonia Hassan, who heads a Wayne State University program scrutinized over claims the city had given it preferential treatment, married in a small ceremony in Florida over the weekend, the mayor's office said.
Duggan in June announced his engagement to Hassan, a woman with whom his relationship was publicly questioned after concerns were raised more than two years ago about whether the city gave favor to Make Your Date, a program to combat preterm births.
Prior to the summer, the mayor had declined to discuss his relationship with Hassan. In the past, although the two had been publicly linked, they refused to talk about their personal lives.
Duggan is seeking a third, four-year term as Detroit's mayor on Nov. 2. Hassan stood by Duggan's side during a gathering at the Good Vibes Lounge in Detroit after the August primary in which he swept more than 70% of the vote.
John Roach, a spokesman for Duggan, said Wednesday that the couple was married in a family-only ceremony on Saturday. The wedding was performed by Imam Jihad Turk and the mayor's brother, Dan Duggan.
Duggan and Hassan returned to Detroit Tuesday after a brief honeymoon.
"We appreciate all the good wishes we’ve received since the announcement of our engagement in June,” Duggan and Hassan said in a statement. “We especially thank our families for their love and support.”
The mayor, during a Wednesday afternoon news conference, reiterated the support he and Hassan have received and noted that the two will reside at the Manoogian Mansion.
Duggan and the city's dealings with WSU's Make Your Date program, led by Hassan, had been the focus of city and state investigations on claims of potential abuse of authority over allegations that city resources were used to solicit donations for the nonprofit favored by the mayor.
In April, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she decided not to levy charges against Duggan or several city staffers. Nessel's decision came after a nearly two-year probe by her office's Public Integrity Unit into claims that two Detroit employees were directed by top Duggan aides, including his former chief of staff, to delete emails detailing efforts to line up funding to support Make Your Date.
Nessel said preferential treatment "is not against the law" and because Duggan is the mayor, he's able to determine what his priorities are.
Hassan is the associate vice president and founder of the Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University. She is also co-chair of Michigan's Maternal Infant Health and Equity Collaborative.
Duggan's former wife, Mary Loretto Maher, filed for divorce in spring 2019, nearly six months after the couple defended their marriage in response to the mayor being publicly challenged over his ties to Hassan.
Detroit's Office of Inspector General investigated the program for six months after the Detroit Free Press reported that the program received $358,000 in city grants and benefited from a fundraising campaign that a city official led at the mayor’s request.
While the OIG investigation concluded that Duggan provided special treatment to Make Your Date, it did not rise to the level of an abuse of power because he did not violate city rules or laws, it said. Such treatment, however, "was not best practice or good governance."
The mayor has said the city never directed a cent to a nonprofit. The partnership, Duggan added, was with the university directly.
University representatives have reiterated Duggan's stance, that the program has been handled by Wayne State from the beginning. The nonprofit, the university has said, was never activated and has never received or put out a penny.
Wayne State has said Hassan is a volunteer in her effort to lead the program and that it was launched based on research done at the National Institutes of Health's Perinatal Research Branch at Wayne State and Detroit Medical Center's Hutzel Women’s Hospital in which Hassan played a prominent role.