Ann Arbor Cronyism & “Double-Dipping” Scams Go Prime Time in Detroit Water Department Scandal
by P.D. Lesko
Bonnie “remained confident” in Clyde. Ma Barker “remained confident” in her boys. Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Sue McCormick said Friday she “remains confident” in former Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones. Her department also sent out a press release January 11th affirming confidence in Jones and pointing out his long background in police work. Flint, which is being run by an emergency financial manager, was paying Jones $135,000 a year as the city’s Chief of Police. The water department is paying him $138,750. McCormick, who started at the Detroit Water and Sewage Department in January 2012, hired her old Ann Arbor pal Jones in May 2012, just one month after Jones “retired” from his job in Ann Arbor—another former Ann Arbor city employee who “retired” with a fat pension and benefits, then moved on to a job paying six-figures.
“I would not ask him to step down,” McCormick (pictured, left) said. “I haven’t been, in any way, dissatisfied with his service to DWSD.” Evidently, defrauding the public doesn’t strike McCormick as problematic. Her ridiculous response should come as no surprise, of course, because she knew he was the Chief of Police in Flint when she hired him in at $138,750.
In Ann Arbor the rampant political cronyism, double-dipping and dishonesty pervade our own city government and has, until recently, gone unquestioned by politicos the local news blogs and in polite conversation.
Such behavior costs taxpayers millions of dollars as city staffers push no bid contracts, and award contracts to individuals who John Hieftje has appointed to city boards and commissions. Now, with the Barnett Jones-Sue McCormick Show Ann Arbor cronyism has gone prime time. It will only be a matter of time before the Detroit papers put together the fact that McCormick and Jones worked together in Ann Arbor and that McCormick knew full well what she was doing when she hired Jones into a full-time job as the head of her department of security and integrity (no joke). McCormick is now trying to cover her tracks. She claimed to the Detroit Free Press that Jones had informed her of his work in Flint, “although she understood it to be part time.”
Let’s see if McCormick sticks to her story when Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy starts asking questions. A member of Worthy’s department, Michael Woodyard challenged incumbent District Court Judge Timothy Connors in the 2012 November election. In the course of that primary, Connors drew Worthy’s attention for accepting campaign donations from attorneys appearing before him in court. Connors is presiding over a long-standing case against the Michigan Department of Corrections in which hundreds of female inmates alleged prison workers sexually abused and harassed them for years. In 2009, Connors approved a settlement that ordered the state to pay $100 million to the prisoners and their attorneys. With matters surrounding the settlement still being worked out, attorneys for the plaintiffs recently contributed more than $8,000 to Connors’ campaign, reports show. Worthy’s motion seeks to have Connors removed from the case, and will be decided on January 18th.
In August 2011, A2Politico posted a piece titled, “Mayor & Police Chief’s Longtime Claims That ‘Crime Is Down’ Bogus? AAPD Sources Reveal Crime Reports Not Filed & Allege Crimes Misclassified.” A2P sources within the AAPD have alleged repeatedly that John Hieftje and former AAPD Chief Barnett Jones misclassified crimes and rigged crime stats to make it appear as though serious crime in Ann Arbor has remained low despite the fact that the number of police officers and money spent on community policing has plummeted. It’s not a new trick for either politicos or top cops. Outside investigators called in to comb through police reports and data in other cities have uncovered deliberate efforts to misclassify crime reports and efforts to rig crime data.
In 2004 Atlanta’s new Police Chief, Richard Pennington, released an independent audit of his department’s police practices that shocked the nation. He criticized his department for underreporting crime. The Los Angeles Times reports, “The independent report covers the years prior to Atlanta’s 1996 Summer Olympics through Pennington’s tenure as chief, which began in 2002. It described ‘a broken police department’ that, during a period when officials here were concerned about the city’s image as a tourist destination, discarded crime records and improperly closed cases.”
In January of 2011, The New York Times reported that David N. Kelley, Chief of Police for the city of New York, announced that “three former federal prosecutors would review the department’s internal crime-reporting system.” The article goes on to report that, “Critics have long suggested that the crime data has been undermined by departmental incentives or threats that in many cases prompt those responsible for assessing, reporting and recording crimes — from patrol officers to precinct commanders — to downgrade offenses….”
In that August 2011 A2Politico piece, Chief Jones (pictured, right) began his comments in response to allegations from officers within his own department by saying, “I am not a crook.” The irony of the statement, of course, is that former President Richard Nixon said the same thing in an hour-long televised question-and-answer session with 400 Associated Press managing editors in November of 1973 as he declared his innocence in the Watergate case. As it turns out, Barnett Jones is a crook. He recently resigned from his position as the Chief of Police in Flint, Michigan when the Detroit Free Press revealed Jones was moonlighting as the head of security for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. In essence, Jones was working two six-figure jobs in cities that are 70 miles apart. Officials in Flint said they didn’t know Jones also was working as chief of security and integrity for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
Now, the union representing Detroit Water and Sewerage Department security officers is calling for the resignation of security chief Barnett Jones.
Michael Mulholland is the vice president of AFSCME Local 207 which represents about 77 security guards and more than 800 other department employees. Mulholland told the Freep: “He should have been fired…When he was hired in, they changed the name to the department of security and integrity because they wanted to set a new tone. If that irony alone isn’t enough to fire him, I don’t know what is.”
In published reports, Jones said he was able to work 40 hours a week in Flint and 40 hours a week in Detroit by working into the night and on weekends. He described himself as “kind of a consultant up in Flint” to the Free Press, but his Flint contract reads that “it is the intent of the parties that employee will exercise broad powers in restructuring any or all of these (public safety) operations to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and utility of these operations for the benefit of the citizens of Flint.”
The Flint Journal editorialized on January 10, 2013:
Still, this whole situation is pretty embarrassing. It gives that same old impression that there isn’t enough oversight in Flint. That lack of oversight is what led to an emergency manager in the first place. We didn’t think it would still be happening with one in place. And the topper: Emergency Manager Kurtz’s office issued a statement that said Jones still has the option of working for Flint as a public safety consultant.
That would be a slap in the face.
Kurtz and Brown said Jones never even disclosed his other job to them. That lack of respect does not deserve to be rewarded with a consulting gig.
Let’s learn from our mistakes and move forward.
Multiple Detroit-area newspapers are investigating Jones’s claims that he worked 40 hours at both jobs. The Flint Journal has asked to see Jones’s employment records, and Detroit newspaper reporters have asked to see Jones’s Detroit employment records, as well. Should it become clear that Jones was shorting either employer, at the very least he could be asked to pay back money he took, and Jones could, potentially, face criminal charges stemming from fraud. As for McCormick, she’s standing by her man. After all, it’s what happens in Ann Arbor. When then city Administrator Roger Fraser got caught by auditors misusing his city-issued credit card, John Hiefje and former Ward 3 Council member Leigh Greden led an effort that resulted in a change to city credit card use policy that, ultimately, was applied retroactively to Fraser’s misuse of public funds. In addition, even though Fraser got a $400 per month car allowance from the city, he was reimbursed $1,009.95 for fiscal year 2006 business mileage, including 846.33 in mileage for a trip to Minneapolis.
In 2006, Ann Arbor CFO Tom Crawford assured auditors (and City Council members on the audit committee) that “procedures had been implemented” to make sure such “double-dipping” did not occur in future.
In the city’s 2012 audit Ann Arbor City Attorney Stephen Postema was caught by auditors claiming both mileage and vehicle allowance. This clearly violates city policy. Records indicate he claimed $1,043.37 in mileage reimbursements dating from June 23, 2011, despite his vehicle allowance of $330 per month, an allowance that was recently discontinued—replaced with an almost 2.4 percent equivalent hike in pay. When McCormick worked in Ann Arbor, staffers alleged that she and another city employee who lived in Lansing car-pooled together while both collected car allowances.
Tom Crawford, meanwhile, was given a generous pay raise in 2011 by Hieftje and City Council members, the year after the auditor cited the city (again) for poor financial control of credit cards. This year, the auditor dinged Crawford’s office for paying out on questionable expense reports.
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