Mayor Duggan responds to Detroit News column slamming his appointees as ‘cronies’

Noland Finley
Noland Finley

Conservative Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley certainly knows how to ruffle some feathers.

Today he did just that with a column suggesting that new Mayor Mike Duggan “is filling the key positions in his administration with cronies, nearly all of them Democratic operatives who would seem better suited to staffing a political machine than remaking a city.”

Finley listed a number of key appointees who are entrenched Democrats with campaign-funding prowess. Among them are three former Democratic Party chairmen: Tom Lewand Sr., Butch Hollowell and Rick Wiener.

Duggan responded with this statement:

MayorDuggan (1)
Mayor Duggan

Criticism comes with the job when you’re Mayor of Detroit. It’s something you rarely hear me complain about.

But Nolan Finley’s attacks on the men and women who are joining this administration are unfair and unjustified. We have a team of people who are putting in 60-80 hour work weeks trying, in the midst of bankruptcy, to get the street lights on, the abandoned houses cleaned up, and the buses and ambulances running on time.

We have a salary structure that’s the lowest of any major city in America and a hiring process where each of my appointees has been approved by both Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and by Governor Snyder’s administration. It’s hardly a recipe, as Mr. Finley suggests, for building a team of unqualified political cronies.

Our team includes people with strong government experience: a former police chief – Ike McKinnon, a former state legislator – Lisa Howze, a former Detroit chief of staff – Charlie Beckham, and two former Michigan chiefs of staff – Tom Lewand and Rick Wiener.

That experience is blended with a group of talented Detroiters who are working in government for the first time in their careers: Spokeswoman Alexis Wiley from Fox2 News, Deputy Jobs Director Kirk Mayes from the Brightmoor Alliance, Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Smiley, a former Detroit Revitalization fellow, and Neighborhoods Department General Manager Vicky Kovari of the Michigan Organizing Project.

Have I recruited people who have worked with me successfully in the past? Absolutely. Mary Palazzolo Martin was the Detroit Medical Center’s head of lean processing, a person at the center of the efficiency improvements that drove DMC’s financial turnaround. She is now heading Detroit’s process re-engineering team, attacking the terrible inefficiencies in city government, starting with our slow ambulance response time.

Kevin Simowski is a highly respected 20 year prosecutor who played a key role in developing the nuisance abatement lawsuit program that saved more than 1,000 abandoned homes when I was prosecutor. What’s he now doing for Detroit? He’s heading the Detroit Land Bank’s litigation team, suing the owners of abandoned houses and drug houses across the city. How could you find anyone more qualified?

I don’t know of a business executive in America who doesn’t try to recruit people they have worked with in the past and know to be honest, hardworking, and competent. That’s not cronyism – it’s sound management.

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.

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