Mayor Mike Duggan is treading on dangerous territory.
Three weeks after his office denied he was involved with a “dark money” nonprofit that is lobbying against a city ordinance, Motor City Muckraker has learned that Duggan was instrumental in the creation of Detroit Jobs First, a misleading nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors.
Detroit Jobs First is raising tens of thousands of dollars from unknown donors to rally against Proposal A, a city ordinance that would require developers who receive tax breaks to guarantee jobs to Detroiters. The group, which is headed by two people close to the mayor, is using TV advertisements and mailers to suggest to Detroiters that Proposal A is bad for jobs – a dubious claim, at best.
The city prohibits the mayor and other elected officials from using public resources to take sides on ballot proposals.
Duggan’s office, which originally told Metro Times that the mayor was not involved, will no longer deny Duggan’s role in the nonprofit after two union leaders confirmed to Motor City Muckraker that the mayor was behind the nonprofit, which is similar to Gov. Snyder’s controversial Nerd Fund.
Duggan’s office directed all questions to the nonprofit’s spokeswoman, Sharon Banks, who served as communications director for Duggan’s super PAC when he was running for mayor. Also behind the nonprofit is Rev. James Holley, a former civic liaison for Duggan.
Banks confirmed that Duggan is involved but declined to elaborate.
“As a private citizen, he can do whatever he wants,” Banks insisted. “He has been vocal that he isn’t supporting Proposal A.”
Banks also declined to say how much money the nonprofit has raised or who donated.
Failing to disclose the donors raises serious questions about who is trying to influence Detroit voters on Nov. 8. Proposal A would predominately impact outside developers who are raking in millions of city tax dollars with very few strings attached.
Some of Duggan’s largest campaign donors are those same developers.
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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.