Attorney with ties to Kilpatrick appointed to Detroit-Wayne health board

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — William A. Phillips, an attorney with ties to disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was appointed Thursday to fill a vacancy on the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network board in a 10-4 vote by the Wayne County Commission.

Phillips formerly served as treasurer and a board member for the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which authorities alleged had been misused by the former mayor, who served time in federal prison on corruption-related charges. 

Phillips' nomination to the health network board grew controversial after a WXYZ-TV report shed light on his associations with Kilpatrick.

Up until then, his nomination to the board had gone smoothly. When the county commission's Health and Human Services committee took up Phillips' nomination on Nov. 9, there were no probing questions into his background.

Commissioner Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, thought Phillips's name looked familiar — had he been nominated for an appointment before? 

The Wayne County Commission on Thursday voted 9-4 to appoint William A. Phillips, an attorney with ties to disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, to fill a vacancy on the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network board.

He had. In 2016, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans had nominated Phillips for the county's spot on the Great Lakes Water Authority Board of Directors. 

That nomination was withdrawn, Phillips told the committee last week, because he had realized he couldn't balance the water authority board's work with his family and professional life. He said he does not believe there will be a similar problem on the health network board. 

Anderson abstained from voting at the committee meeting. At the county's full board meeting Thursday, Anderson voted against Phillips' appointment. 

He was joined by Terry Marecki, R-Livonia; Melissa Daub, D-Plymouth, and Tim Killeen, D-Detroit. 

Anderson, reached after Thursday's meeting, said "it's disappointing there weren't enough (no) votes to stop this."

"His judgment, I really find questionable," Anderson said of Phillips, noting he also opposed the prospect of the 2016 nomination to the water authority board. "He defended (Kilpatrick's) use of the fund to fly all over the country, and fly his family all over. That's not someone we want sitting on the mental health board for Detroit and Wayne County."

Marecki also had voted no at the committee meeting. But Daub and Killeen switched their votes from yes to no between the committee and full board votes.

Raymond Basham, D-Taylor, was not present.

Phillips couldn't be immediately reached Thursday for comment.

During the Nov. 9 committee meeting, Phillips said he's honored to be considered for the role and that mental health is "a very serious issue" in the country and "getting larger and larger."

"I can commit to you that I will dedicate myself to this board and ensuring citizens of Wayne County are getting the appropriate services from this organization," he said. 

Jonathan Kinloch, D-Detroit, was among the nine yes votes. He joined commission chair Alisha Bell, Irma Clark-Coleman, Al Haidous, Monique Baker McCormick, David Knezek, Martha Scott, Ilona Varga, Sam Baydoun and Joseph Palamara.

"I've heard nothing in this meeting that Mr. Phillips has demonstrated himself to not be competent to carry out the duties and responsibilities of this office," Kinloch said before the vote. "I am quite sure he would serve the community well on the board."

Andrew Kandrevas, Evans' liaison to the county commission, reiterated Evans' support for Phillips before the vote.

"The CEO has full confidence in Mr. Phillips to handle the assignment before him, to be on this board," Kandrevas told the commission. "He's an esteemed lawyer and a reputable businessman. There's no reason to think that he will not serve the residents of Wayne County in a very high manner on this board."

Phillips' appointment starts immediately and will expire March 31, 2024. The 12-member health network board is seated with six appointments from Wayne County and six from Detroit. 

During Kilpatrick's federal corruption trial in 2012, prosecutors portrayed the civic fund as the former mayor's "personal piggy bank."

The fund raised $1.7 million from donors between 2002 and 2007. Kilpatrick's defense team argued that all but 0.87% of that money went toward legitimate expenses.

Kilpatrick was sentenced in 2013 on two dozen counts of using his positions as mayor and state representative to carry out a decade-long criminal racket involving extortion, bribery, conspiracy and fraud.

The former mayor was ordered to serve 28 years in federal prison. He served about eight years, before being granted clemency by former President Donald Trump on his last day in office. 

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