Ousted Detroit Land Bank director was drunk on job, stalked employee

A Detroit Land Bank demolition. Photo By Steve Neavling.

A Detroit Land Bank demolition. Photo By Steve Neavling.

Kevin Simowski, the recently ousted head of the Detroit Land Bank and a longtime friend and political ally of Mayor Mike Duggan, was fired after coming to work drunk and threatening and stalking an upper-management employee for six months, Motor City Muckraker has learned.

Carrie Lewand-Monroe

Carrie Lewand-Monroe

Carrie Lewand-Monroe, who was then the principal director of the Land Bank, filed a personal protection order against her boss on Oct. 8, the same day he was fired as the director.

“He told me on one instance he owned a weapon and would kill himself because I stopped being his friend and would not have lunch with him,” Lewand, 38, wrote in the PPO. “Based on his actions, I am fearful and feel threatened.”

Lewand, the daughter of Thomas Lewand Sr., group executive for jobs and economic growth in Duggan’s administration, was hired to replace her alleged stalker a few days later. Her colleagues described her as skilled, incredibly driven and more capable than her predecessors.

She now runs the Land Bank, which has razed about 7,000 vacant houses under Duggan. But the agency has come under fire for increased demolitions costs, which the mayor has defended.

Kevin Simowski

Kevin Simowski

For months, Land Bank employees were complaining that Simowski, 58, of Plymouth, was showing up to work drunk and was belligerent and disruptive.

Yet Simowski, who previously worked for Duggan at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and then the Detroit Medical Center (DMC), was allowed to stay on the job.

“On September 1st, 2015, the Board of the Detroit Land Bank placed Kevin Simowski on medical leave,” Erica Ward Gerson, board chairwoman for the Detroit Land Bank Authority, said in a statement to Motor City Muckraker. “He has not been on the premises since that date and was instructed by me to not to contact any Land Bank employees during that leave.”

But according to Lewand-Monroe, Simowski continued to harass her by phone and by showing up to her Ann Arbor home.

“Since April of 2015, Kevin has constantly harassed and displayed aggressive behavior. After six months, he showed up at my home uninvited,” Lewand-Monroe wrote in the PPO.

Land Bank officials insist they had no idea that Simowski was harassing her until shortly before she filed the PPO.

“Based on information provided me by an employee of the Land Bank relative to an incident on October 7th, the Land Bank terminated Simowski on October 8th,” Gerson said. “Simowski was terminated for cause, and no severance was paid.”

It’s not the first time Simowski has been accused of wrongdoing in Duggan’s administration. In January 2003, he and then-Wayne County Prosecutor Duggan were sued in a whistleblower lawsuit by an intern who alleged retaliation at her job for reporting that Duggan’s staff was using county resources for political work. She also claimed that Duggan’s staff was coaching her on misleading the FBI regarding the political work.

At the time, Simowski was serving as Duggan’s chief of operations and blasted the intern for fabricating the story. But the intern, who was being interviewed by the FBI, provided strong evidence that she was ordered to do political work at her county job, prompting Duggan to fire one of his top staff members.

Mayor Duggan

Mayor Duggan

Duggan’s office declined to comment on Simowski or explain how he was qualified to oversee one of the largest municipal demolition projects in U.S. history. He had no experience in real estate or demolitions.

Simowski, a graduate of Wayne State University Law School, served in top positions for Duggan when the mayor was head of DMC. He also served as chief of the criminal justice bureau in the Michigan Attorney General’s department under Mike Cox.

In February 2014, Simowski was hired as the Land Bank’s general counsel, before taking the helm in November 2014. He replaced another longtime Duggan friend and political ally, Richard Wiener, who served as executive director of the Land Bank from January 2014 to Oct. 31, 2014. Wiener was the third former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party tapped by Duggan for key positions.

Wiener also had no experience with Land Bank issues.

Lewand-Monroe, whose brother is Tom Lewand Jr., president of the Detroit Lions, previously served as the director of policy of Detroit Future City and executive director of the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority. She also was a project manager and attorney for Wayne County.

According to the PPO:

Week of Sept. 21: “Kevin called me on my direct office phone. He told me about his current employment status and I advised him not to contact me as he was told by the employer. Over a period of months prior to the call, there were numerous unwanted verbal contact.”

Oct. 2: “Kevin called my direct office phone. I saw his number on my caller ID and did not answer. This call was after he was told not to contact me at all. I notified my employer.”

Oct. 7: Simowski “parked outside my home and waited for me to come home from work. My husband went up to his vehicle and asked why he was there. He mumbled something and then drove.”

Lewand-Monroe added: “Kevin has continued his behavior after he was threatened by his employer to lose his job and severance pay. The unwanted contact and phone calls originated at my place of employment in the city of Detroit. It came to a head when he showed up at my home.”

 

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.

  • Mary Palmer

    How come the Land Bank IS NOT RECORDING DEEDS and mailing them for the people that bought Lots and Houses ????????????????????????????

  • 1DetroitRedhead

    The truth shall set you free. Thanks for the excellent reporting

  • Steven Mason

    Well remember but for McNamara dying from cancer, Duggan and other Wayne County cronnies where going be in the middle of a federal criminal prosecution which sent two of the cronnies to prison (they were bagman for McNamara at Metro Airport) before he died and the feds followed the trail to Duggan and McNamara.

    It was pretty funny that in the Bernard Kilpatrick trial the federal prosecutors put into evidence the under cover tape of Bernard bragging to Rosenfell (or whatever the Snyagro persons name is) about how he learned to cut up contracts when he worked for Mike Duggan at Wayne County. Bernard said something to the effect that he would meet with Duggan and McNamara and divide up who got how big of piece from Wayne county contracts. Old time Wayne county pols always referred to McNamara as being a ten percenter because he wanted 10% of any contracts back when he was the mayor of Livonia.

  • banmar

    This is some damn fine reporting, Steve, and the Detroit News recognized you for it (I’m sure someone at Gannett got a good chewing out). This kind of BS from Simowski is exactly why you should never hire your friends — that way, you never have to fire them.

  • Diddy

    mmmmmm

  • Steven Mason

    Simowski is one of the original Wayne County Cronnies. He was as big of a joke in Lansing when Mike Duggan’s guy Mike Cox put him in charge of a legal division he was as unqualified to manage as he was unqualified to direct the Land Bank. These appointments are not about competency, they are about taking care of people. Someone should look for links between Duggan and Simowski and the contractors who are apparently being paid excessively for the demolitions….it does remind you of Mayor Kilpatrick and Bobbie Ferguson doesn’t it?

    • Donald E. Hodge

      Your wonderful Steve, that is a great idea! And you are right about the connection. Thanks for the info. What do you think Steve Neavling? Story maybe?

    • javierjuanmanuel

      I was not impressed with the cost savings, but then detroit does not care about money. They see city jobs as an affirmative action program. All you need to do is be black, and have a highschool diploma, and they would love to pay you as much as an accountant or a chemist in the private sector. Also a pension worth a couple million. And a 600k health care package.

      By the way, ANY city contract, they will pay 10 or 15% premium if you are a minority.

      Just so you know, allot of people only net 20% of a contract, so if a white guy gets a 400k contract, he can net 80k. A black contractor doing the same work nets 140k.

  • Sizz

    He lives in Plymouth and she lives in Ann Arbor. Both of them drawing massive six figure salaries from a broke city. This is the real crime.

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  • Laura Dunbar Kellett

    When our daughter was born with Down syndrome 29 years ago, Kevin was the only person to congratulate us. He had worked with people who had Down syndrome. He told us that we were very lucky and would have a great time raising her. Kevin was right.

    • Donald E. Hodge

      So he’s a nice stalker?

      • bebow

        If the voice of God can issue from the branches of a burning bush, then it can also come through Kevin Simowski’s mouth. The messenger brought “tidings of great joy,” and, as Ms. Kellett said, he was right.

        • Donald E. Hodge

          Sure I guess if you believe in in God. I was just wondering what that had to do with his qualifications of running a Bank?

          • bebow

            There are some who believe government administrators don’t need specific qualifications in order to function. Demonstrated competency is considered irrelevant. Filling open space in the chain of command and going along to get along are sufficient. State government is famous for that approach to doing business and gets itself in deep trouble with it again and again. Fortunately, it’s very accomplished at covering its dirt.

          • Donald E. Hodge

            I agree with you on that 100%. There really needs to be more thought put into who does what and for which Department. A prime example of that is this mess that needs to be cleaned up within the fire Department due to the former person that ran it into the ground.

          • banmar

            What kills me about this is that in my town’s setup, with a strong committee/weak manager form of government, my clerk has to pass state certification, my CFO has to pass certification, have specific advanced degrees in finance and attend continuing ed, and my tax assessor, collector, vital statistics registrar, and code enforcement all have to pass state certification. I know that when you *are* the governing entity who sets the rules, you don’t necessarily have to follow them, but for the most part, it’s good form when you do. It builds trust with your residents. Christie Creme fired financial folks and others vital to state operations and hired damn near every Republican lawyer in the state. He has more staff, all with JDs, than we had statehouse employees, period. The late Warren Zevon would be sending our statehouse accountants, guns and money, and maybe yours, too.

          • banmar

            Land bank, not a financial institution.

          • Donald E. Hodge

            Go away.

          • banmar

            No sir, I shall not.

      • Laura Dunbar Kellett

        How about a little compassion?

        • Donald E. Hodge

          Compassion? Really. Well what about it. lets talk about compassion. Lets talk about working in the back of ambulance day in and day out with people bleeding out on you, vomiting on you, looking into they eyes while holding their hand knowing all along that they are not going to make it because their to far gone. I Love people, That is why I did that job. to help people when they are at their worst, it was not for the money that part was a joke. you have to want that job. so what is wrong with your friend only he can fix. and I hope he does. out of all the drugs out there on the streets I hate Alcohol the most. it turns people into monsters. good luck to him, and you.

        • Trexinmichigan

          How about checking into rehab and not enabling him to terrorize people and act like a jerk?

    • Donald E. Hodge

      So he’s a nice stalker?

    • banmar

      It’s good that you’re showing another side of him. He desperately needs some help with his alcoholism, which is what I suspect is clouding his judgment and ruining his life.

  • bebow

    This has gone on for 6 months? It’s time to toughen up. If Drunky-the-Clown acts up again, she should dot his eye.

    • Donald E. Hodge

      oh man…..I love it. That was great!

    • banmar

      Her brother got canned as president of the Lions the other day; who’s got money on him showing up as a Land Bank employee or some similar department for which he’s not qualified?

  • Donald E. Hodge

    I don`t understand Mayor Mike Duggan`s insistence upon using people that are not qualified for their current titles or jobs they tend to end up with. I think most of us would like to help out their friends from time to time but not at the expense of the tax payer who I would add gets burned enough by the very people that the government pretends to protected.

    • JC

      What’s not to understand? He came up under McNamara.

      • Donald E. Hodge

        That whole crew tends to leave a Bad taste in the mouth of descent people.

        • Laura Dunbar Kellett

          Decent

          • Donald E. Hodge

            Yeah , Well sorry about that.I did not know I was talking to a English teacher. I happen to be Dyslexic so things don`t always come out the way I want them to. At least I`am not a Drunkin attorney who stalks women.

      • javierjuanmanuel

        Good point, but its not unique to the mcnamara machine.

        Obama does this, JFK did it, other mayors have their close family given high paying jobs, and no show jobs.

        Almost everyone on city council used to hire their family to no show jobs. Then we got wise to it, now its banned. So as a professional courtesy they hire each others mutual family members to no show jobs.

        So clearly doing work is not something anyone in detroit takes serious.

        Also in case you did not know, at any one time, across all city departments, about 1/3 call in sick, every single day.

        I know many people in my family, who go 5-6 years with out calling in sick. My grandpa worked for the county, and the airforce, and never called in sick, but 1 day in 40 years ! Granted that was the 1960s, back when detroit and wayne county were not crapholes.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Everyone does it, from JFK hiring his brother, and his brothers room mate from college playing seat warmer for a few years till teddy was old enough to take JFK senate seat, to kwame, kwame has something like 50 family members on the city payroll. I think Dennis archer had only four family members on city payroll.

      These are not duggans family, he is putting people he trusts in places he wants someone he can trust, who likes him, listens to him, is loyal, etc.

      Its no so crazy an idea, what about the land bank is so hard, you need to go to harvard, or work at the land bank for 20 years to run it?

      • Donald E. Hodge

        sure you expect it from someone like John F. Kennedy. Buddy, Buddy till the end, but it seems to me that some of his people are starting to really fall apart at this point. The Fire Department now this Land bank. Who`s next? can`t say much for this pals he picks.