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, 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.
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.
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 lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.