Pugh raises cash from builders, developers for a campaign that doesn’t exist

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh has said repeatedly he is not running for reelection.

But that didn’t stop him from holding at least two fundraisers last year with builders and developers who do business with the city, according to campaign finance reports, some of which only became available recently because of tardy filings.

At a glitzy event at the Detroit Athletic Club in December, Pugh collected $6,750 from the president and vice president of engineering firm, Tucker, Young, Jackson and Tull.

And for good measure, the president’s wife chipped in an additional $1,250.

Like many other builders and developers who donated up to $1,500 apiece at the event, the engineering firm has millions of dollars in contracts with the city, all of which require the council’s approval.

The Detroit-based firm didn’t return calls for comment.

It’s unclear how Pugh spent his campaign cash last year because the report is unavailable.

Many records were unavailable until recently because Pugh was more than two years late filing some of them.

A review of those records shows that Pugh relied heavily on suburban builders, developers and attorneys for donations. In a two-month period in 2009, for example, two-thirds of his contributions – or about $50,000 – came from out-of-towners, records show.

One of his biggest individual donations came from Matty Moroun, the controversial owner of the Ambassador Bridge and the abandoned Michigan Central Station. Moroun forked over at least $4,000.

Pugh also relied heavily on the suburbs and Lansing for campaign consultations, legal help, yard signs, T-shirts and email services. From September to October 2009, leading up to the election, Pugh spent more than $22,000 on campaign specialists from outside of the city.

Just two weeks ago, at a council meeting, Pugh demanded the city do a better job hiring Detroit-based businesses.

Speculation about what’s next for Pugh is swirling. It’s no secret that he was mulling a mayoral run, but sources close to Pugh said that’s unlikely.

Pugh’s office ignored requests for an interview.

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former Detroit Free Press reporter. He can be reached at sneavling@gmail.com. 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.