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DetroitMayor 05-13

Efforts to remove Detroit mayor to go to vote

Eds: Vote scheduled at 10 a.m. EDT.

AP Photo NY107

By COREY WILLIAMS

Associated Press Writer

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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit City Council has spent weeks debating what to do with scandal-plagued Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick: force his ouster or slap him on the wrist.

That talk could lead to action Tuesday when the nine-member group votes on three resolutions that may ultimately remove a defiant Kilpatrick from the office he’s held for six years.

Council members are to consider three possibilities: Remove Kilpatrick from office themselves, ask Gov. Jennifer Granholm to do it, or publicly censure the mayor.

The relationship between the Council and the mayor’s office was strained even before revelations earlier this year that he may have misled them to approve an $8.4 million whistle-blowers’ settlement.

Council members say they were unaware of a confidentiality agreement that Kilpatrick signed that kept secret references to intimate and sexually explicit text messages between the mayor and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.

Excerpts of those messages were published in January by the Detroit Free Press and contradicted testimony Kilpatrick and Beatty gave during the whistle-blowers’ trial, when they denied having a romantic relationship.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office charged the two with perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice on March 24, less than a week after the Council voted 7-1 on a nonbinding resolution asking Kilpatrick to resign. Kilpatrick’s office has said the Council’s actions are politically motivated.

The Council agrees that Kilpatrick violated the City Charter, but otherwise the group is split on what action to take. Some favor one resolution over another, while others suggested they would approve two or more of the options.

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President Pro Tem Monica Conyers has been critical of the Council’s efforts and said she prefers to wait for the criminal case against Kilpatrick to proceed through the courts.

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said Monday that she favored forfeiture of office, while Barbara-Rose Collins adamantly said she would not support asking Granholm to get involved.

"I think it’s the wrong thing to do," Collins said. "I don’t need a governor coming to Detroit, telling the people who elected somebody that he is not worthy of the office."

State law allows the governor to remove an elected official from office for a number of reasons, including official misconduct, willful neglect of duty or a felony conviction. Granholm has said she wants to allow the legal process to play out.

"An extreme situation like this calls for an extreme measure," Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. said. "I do support taking it to the governor. That could potentially save a lot of time and a lot of money."

If the Council moves against the mayor with forfeiture of office proceedings, the move could end up in court and take about a year and a half — if there are no appeals by Kilpatrick or if those appeals are expedited, council attorney William Goodman said.

Goodman also warned the cost could be upward of $250,000, a figure the Council’s research and analysis director put at closer to $500,000. That cost will be another burden for a cash-strapped city, which is among the nation’s leaders in foreclosures and unemployment.

The Kilpatrick case has overshadowed city budget negotiations and the proposed sale of Detroit’s half of a busy and lucrative international tunnel linking the city to Canada.

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"I do not believe that any City Council in the past has had to deal with an issue of this magnitude," Detroit historian Michael Smith said of the Kilpatrick affair. "This may be the largest political issue the City Council has ever faced."

If Kilpatrick is forced from office, Cockrel will assume the mayor’s seat and Conyers would take over as Council president.

But Cockrel and Conyers — wife of powerful Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers — have said they would abstain from any direct vote on removing Kilpatrick.

"I want to do this the right way," Conyers said.

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On the Net:

http://www.ci.detroit.mi.us/legislative/citycouncil/default.htm

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