New email records indicate that former state treasurer Andy Dillon had a close, cozy relationship with the suburban Detroit firm that he helped land a lucrative consulting contract to handle the city’s financial troubles.
That firm, Conway MacKenzie, hired Dillon as a consultant with a six-figure contract in February.
Although the firm’s president and CEO, Van Conway, described Dillon as “a business acquaintance,” the former treasurer was much more, according to new emails obtained by the Michigan Democratic Party.
The emails show that the pair, while Dillon was the treasurer, attended professional sporting events together, dined out at Hyde Park restaurant in Birmingham and did favors for each other. When Conway’s daughter, who is in law school, was assembling a panel, Conway urged Dillon to do “a huge favor for me” and a “huge favor for my daughter” and sit on the panel.
When Conway MacKenzie was trying to hammer out a $4 million contract with the state, Dillon said he placed Gov. Rick Snyder’s adviser, Richard Baird, on the job. That contract has ballooned to more than $19 million.
“I asked him to lead negotiations,” Dillon assured Conway in an email.
While many officials complained about Dillon’s slow response to calls, he didn’t make Conway wait. While at the musical “Wicked,” Dillon emailed Conway several times before Conway said the issue could hold off until after the show.
In April 2013, after Conway MacKenzie received the contract, Conway wrote: “Great seeing you last night and also for your ongoing support of my Firm.”
In the same email, Conway asks: “Can you get me one or two rooms at the Mackinac conference at the end of May?”
The emails raised eyebrows in Lansing.
“Another day, another disclosure that raises serious ethical questions about the way business is conducted in the Snyder Administration,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson said. “Michigan families deserve answers about whether ex-treasurer Dillon, who was supposed to be monitoring Conway McKenzie and holding them accountable, was in fact auditioning for a future job there.”
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. 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.
“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.
Van Conway, who is known for hosting lavish holiday parties with scantily clad women, has dodged our questions for months and even accused us of fabricating a story in February about Dillon getting hired at the firm.
“Usually the press doesn’t surprise me when they fabricate information to sensationalize a story but your lack of truthful info is shocking,” Conway wrote. “You need to be accountable for the accuracy of your story and me not responding does not give you a right to write whatever you want. Honesty does extend to reporters. Hope going forward you govern yourself under this principle.”
And then last week, Conway came clean and acknowledged that Dillon began working for his firm in February. Conway never responded to our questions about the accuracy of the story.
Dillon didn’t return our calls for comment.
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In February, we revealed that Dillon rarely performed his duties while collecting about $40,000 to teach his successor the ropes for three months after he officially resigned.
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.