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The Detroit News has removed its veteran city hall reporter from his beat following allegations that he was having an affair with the ex-wife of state Treasurer Andy Dillon and then threatened to kill her with a baseball bat, sources at the newspaper and Lansing confirmed today.
The allegations are serious, for one, because reporter Leonard Fleming was closely covering Dillon’s office as it negotiated a controversial state takeover of Detroit City Hall. Fleming continued to report on Dillon’s takeover plan until at least last month, when editors learned of the affair.
In the meantime, Fleming’s relationship with Carol Dillon apparently went sour, and he began harassing her and even sent her a picture of his penis, according to a personal protection order granted to her two weeks ago.
Detroit News executive editor Donald Nauss declined to comment on “personnel issues” but said Fleming won’t be covering city hall anymore.
Fleming, who has not published a story in more than a week, couldn’t be reached for comment. Nor could Carol Dillon, who has four children with the treasurer.
Dillon’s office declined to comment.
So why does it matter that two consenting adults were having sex?
Fleming was the key Detroit News reporter writing about the potential appointment of an emergency manager, an issue that has divided and incensed Detroiters. More than any government official, Dillon has been at the center of state negotiations with the city.
When Dillon reached a consent agreement with the city last year, Fleming was the main reporter. He stayed on the story, often reporting daily on the plan’s progress. His last story involving Dillon’s office ran Dec. 22, when he reported that state officials were reworking an agreement with the city to accelerate cuts.
The affair puts the Detroit News in an uncomfortable position. The newspaper has doggedly reported on other sex scandals and called for the dismissal of those involved. Think former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and ex-Police Chief Ralph Godbee.
Details of the affair and any discipline against Fleming aren’t clear.
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Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.