Part 1 of a series examining the moneymakers in Detroit’s bankruptcy
By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker
Before landing what turned out to be a lucrative $19 million contract to serve as key consultants during Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, officials from Conway MacKenzie began privately meeting with then-Treasurer Andy Dillon and his staff in 2012 in hopes of getting the job of a lifetime, according to e-mails and court records.
What most people didn’t know – and what Dillon never divulged – was that he’s a longtime friend of the firm’s president and CEO, Van Conway. The duo has thrown back drinks for years at the exclusive Detroit Athletic Club and attended lavish parties together, friends of the two told us.
Less than a month after Gov. Snyder pressured Dillon to resign on Oct. 31, Dillon began meeting with Conway to secure a job working on a merger in northern Michigan, according to sources familiar with the meetings. In the meantime, Snyder was quietly paying Dillon about $40,000 on a three-month contract to teach the new treasurer the ropes – a task he rarely preformed.
Dillon was an integral part of getting Conway MacKenzie one of its most lucrative jobs, according to emails and deposition transcripts, which show Dillon was meeting with the firm months before other prospective consultants.
“My interactions have been essentially exclusively with the treasury department for the state of Michigan,” Charles Moore, senior managing director for Conway MacKenzie, said during a deposition in federal court in September.
Conway MacKenzie’s initial $4 million contract has ballooned to more than $19.3 million, city records show. Among those collecting big sums is a 22-year-old financial analyst who recently graduated from college. In just two weeks last year, he collected more than $26,000 at a rate of $275 an hour.
Van Conway, who is known for hosting lavish holiday parties with scantily clad women, has dodged our questions for weeks, occasionally agreeing to an interview before bailing out. He has refused to discuss Dillon’s role with the firm.
Gov. Snyder’s office referred questions to the treasury.
“At no time while Mr. Dillon was State Treasurer or in a decision-making position, was there any discussion of potential future employment with the firm,” treasurer spokesman Terry Stanton said in a prepared statement. “As you are aware, Mr. Dillon is no longer a member of the administration nor is he affiliated with the Department of Treasury.”
Stanton said Dillon is free to pursue whatever career he chooses.
“I am not aware of any prohibition on who or whom a former State official can contract with or work for and thus there is no conflict of interest,” Stanton said.
Dillon didn’t return calls for comment.
In the week before Dillon’s contract with Gov. Snyder expired, we reported that he was on a Caribbean cruise.
Dillon oversaw the appointment of emergency managers in numerous Michigan cities and schools but was distracted by excessive drinking and a messy divorce, we reported last year.
Dillon also was accused of domestic violence last year but charges were never filed because of a lack of evidence.
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.