As Mayor Mike Duggan continued to cut city workers over the past year, he increased the size of his administration from 80 appointees to at least 94, with more than half making in excess of $100,000 a year, according to records obtained under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
The appointees are a mix of city hall insiders, experienced administrators, political veterans and newcomers.
Of the 54 appointees collecting six-figure salaries, only 23 live in Detroit. CFO John Hill still keeps his primary residence in Washington D.C. but works predominately from Detroit, according to the administration. Jason Watt, who makes $105,000 as the airport director, lives in Flint.
Four appointees receive more than $200,000 a year: Building Authority Director David Manardo ($250,000), Deputy Mayor Carol O’Cleireacain ($225,000), CFO Hill ($225,000) and Building Authority Deputy Director James Wright ($205,000). Police Chief James Craig, who makes $250,000, was appointed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr but now belongs to the mayor’s administration. DWSD Director Susan McCormick and Chief Assessor Gary Evanko each make about $195,000 a year.
In all, the appointees collect $10.3 million in salaries a year, in addition to health insurance and other benefits.
In the months leading up to state intervention in early 2012, then-Mayor Dave Bing had fewer than 75 appointees, but his administration started out with 118 in 2009. About a dozen earned six-figure salaries.
“Mayor Duggan has added capacity to the administration and has done so within the constraints of the Plan of Adjustment,” mayoral spokesman John Roach, who makes $107,100, said. “The city also is on track to have its first balanced budget in 12 years.”
Asked whether the salaries are paying off, Roach said that’s a question for residents to decide.
“We will let residents judge whether they are seeing improvements and getting good value.”
Unlike some of his predecessors, Mayor Duggan has retained a vast majority of his appointees during the first year and a half of his first term. Mayor Bing, on the other hand, lost nearly half of his appointees during the same time period because of low morale, infighting and little progress.
That’s not to say Mayor Duggan is easy to work for. Appointees describe him as demanding, relentless and even stubborn.
“He can be a real pain in the ass, but he’s getting things done. He demands results. He has a passion and a gift for this stuff,” one appointee told me, speaking on condition of anonymity because he didn’t have authority to speak with the media.
One of the biggest changes under Mayor Duggan was the creation of the Department of Neighborhoods, an initiative to improve services to long-neglected areas by placing appointees in each of the city’s seven districts. The mayor appointed 18 people to the department at a cost of $1.3 million.
The lead appointee and head of the department is longtime city hall insider Charlie Beckham, who was convicted of bribery under Mayor Coleman A. Young in the 1980s. His salary is $140,500 a year, and Duggan said he chose Beckham because of his intimate knowledge of Detroit’s bureaucracy and delivery of services.
Many of the neighborhood appointees are political newcomers who played an integral role in Duggan’s election victory in November 2013.
Other noteworthy appointments include COO Gary Brown, who was originally appointed by the former emergency manager ($147,500); Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley, a former Fox 2 News reporter ($147,600); Group Executive for Jobs and Economy Tom Lewand, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party ($147,525); Deputy Mayor Ike McKinnon, former Detroit police chief ($140,500); Corporation Counsel Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, an attorney for the Detroit branch of the NAACP ($147,525); and Group Executive Portia Roberson, a former lawyer for the Detroit Medical Center ($147,600).
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.