Free Press memory hole

A memory hole is any mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records, such as from a website or other archive, particularly as part of an attempt to give the impression that something never happened. The concept was first popularized by George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eight-Four, where the Party’s Ministry of Truth systematically re-created all potential historical documents, in effect, re-writing all of history to match the often-changing state propaganda. These changes were complete and undetectable.


By Joel Thurtell

“Complete and undetectable.”
That is probably what Detroit Free Press scribes thought they had accomplished when they changed the paper’s website to more accurately distort the facts contained in their October 1, 2015 article about massasauga rattlesnakes.
On October 2, 2015, I emailed a proposed letter that I hoped the Free Press would publish to correct important mistakes published in their article. I never heard from anyone at the Free Press.
But today, November 13, 2015, I called up the problem article and discovered that without notice, it had been corrected. Sort of.
The statement by a naturalist who claimed that no human had died of a massasauga bite in the last century has been scrubbed from the post. The article now reports that a child was injured by a massasauga bite in 2013. There is still no mention of deaths, although my letter informed the paper of four deaths due to massasauga bite since the 1930s. Furthermore, I showed the Free Press letters editors a letter published by the Free Press in 1989 reporting the death of a girl from massasauga bite. The letter, from a Grosse Pointe Woods woman, was sent to the Free Press in response to “Snakebit!,” an article researched and written by me and published in the Detroit Free Press magazine on July 29, 1989.
Had the present-day Free Press reporter done a little research in his own newspaper archive, he would have discovered my article. He might also have seen a September 5, 2013 USA Today article, originated at the Free Press, reporting the illness of a child bitten by a massasauga rattlesnake and now alluded to in the “corrected” website version of the Free Press October 1, 2015 article.
Why not tell people that massasauga venom  is second only to the Mojave rattler in toxicity? Why not admit that drop for drop, massasauga venom is more toxic that that of the Western Diamondback?
I’m talking public safety and public health. People need to know that, if disrespected,  these little reptiles can do serious harm and may even cause death.
Instead of doing spin control for the massasauga, the Free Press would do better to serve the humans who are its readers with the truth.
Here is the letter I emailed to the Free Press on October 2:

An October 1 Free Press article on eastern massasauga rattlesnakes gives the erroneous impression that a bite by one of these reptiles poses minimal risk to humans. A naturalist quoted in the article claims incorrectly that no human has died of a massasauga bite in the last 100 years.

On July 29, 1989, the Detroit Free Press Magazine published a cover story, “Snakebit!,” written by me. I reported that a retired professor of microbiology and immunology at the Indiana University Medical School in Indianapolis and an authority on snake venom, Sherman Minton, had compiled a list of four human deaths attributed to massasauga bites in the mid-twentieth century.

Massasauga venom is the second most toxic of 21 rattlesnake species. Massasauga venom is more potent than that of the Western Diamondback rattlesnake. That more people have not died or been seriously injured by massasaugas can be attributed to their reclusive personalities and the fact that these small snakes don’t pack as much venom as larger rattlers.

A Grosse Pointe Woods woman responded to my article, reporting that her cousin died of massasauga bites in Georgian Bay on July 17, 1962. “For years,” she wrote,”park rangers have given the snake great PR without mentioning that a bite can be lethal to humans.”

My article described how physicians’ ignorance about massasaugas nearly caused the death of a man who was bitten accidentally. Another man thought a rattler was harmless, picked it up and was bitten. He was hospitalized with a serious injury.

Naturalists and the media need to recognize that the bite of a massasauga rattlesnake can lead to serious illness and even death.

Joel Thurtell

The writer is a retired Detroit Free Press reporter

Posted in future of newspapers, Joel's J School, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Seize the bridge! (Again)

By Joel Thurtell

Finally, somebody in mainstream media gets it. Matty Moroun’s privately-owned bridge to Canada is falling apart, he’s corrupted Michigan politics in hopes of torpedoing a publicly-owned bridge in favor of his family’s monopoly, he’s filed innumerable stupid lawsuits costing taxpayers millions, so why don’t the governments of Canada, Ontario, the United States and Michigan declare the bridge a public nuisance and take it?

Thank you, Jack Lessenberry!

“Seize the bridge!” was the gist of Jack’s talk on Michigan Radio this week.

Now for a pop history quiz: What Michigan blogger has urged public officials since 2009 to take Matty’s toy away from him?

Hint: Try googling “shotgun totin’ goon.”

I started my campaign to push Matty back shortly after one of his thugs chased me out of Detroit’s Riverside Park on September 22, 2008. My first aim was to eject the billionaire scofflaw out of the park. Take back what belongs to the people. After 9/11, Matty conspired with the felon mayor of Detroit, Kwame “Jailbait” Kilpatrick to steal the part of the park that he needed for his proposed new bridge. That, by the way, is the portion of the park that Detroit’s currently unconvicted mayor, Mike Duggan, so brainlessly dealt away to Matty last summer. (It was a move that Detroit’s media enthusiastically endorsed as smart politics on Mike’s part.) The media luminaries forgot how hard the city had to fight for more than three years in court to eject Matty from that piece of public land that he converted from shady basketball courts to a dump for his construction debris.

Seven years ago, on September 25, 2008, I wrote: “Why go to court? Give Matty the bum’s rush: Send a city work crew with bulldozers and dump trucks to tear down the fences and clear out the construction crap. Assign a couple dozen Special Weapons And Tactics cops with heavy artillery to guard the workers. Open up the boat ramp and invite people to bring their boats.”

Remember, I was harassed into leaving that piece of the park by none other than Matty’s hireling, a shotgun-totin’ goon named Doug. I learned that jackboots like Doug doing Matty’s bidding had been ejecting other people, including city park officials, from Riverside park. The story I wrote after my ejection from Riverside Park was the first of dozens of articles I wrote in a campaign to alert local media that this billionaire sociopath was stealing public property with impunity.

When I tried to report the shotgun totin’ goon to Detroit police, a desk officer told me, “Take it up with Mr. Moroun.” The city cop seemed to think Matty owned Detroit.

So on September 25, 2008, I continued, “I’ll bring my boat. I’d be honored to launch the “Slick” at Riverside Park. Then assign police to keep an eye on the park. If Matty tries to retake it, to close the ramp, to bring his crud back, why, just send a SWAT team in to push his bully boys out. Believe me, Doug and his gunslinger pals would wilt at the first sign the city means business.”

Then on May 14, 2009, I upped the ante in an essay, “Playing Matty’s Game.” I didn’t just call for taking back the park. I demanded that government authorities seize Matty’s beloved Ambassador Bridge:

Remember what JOTR said when this whole story surfaced last September? Why not send a city work crew with bulldozers, backhoes and a SWAT team to Riverside Park?

Tear down Matty’s fence.

Tear down Matty’s fraudulent Homeland Security “no trespassing” signs.

Replace those basketball courts.

Re-sod the area Matty tore up.

Once started, why stop with taking back the park?

Turn Matty’s medicine back on him. Send that SWAT team in to seize the bridge itself.

Lots of chatter about whether Matty has the power of eminent domain.

Surely, the government has the power to condemn private property, including a privately-owned international bridge.

I understand 40 percent of the freight passing between Canada and the U.S. goes by way of the Ambassador bridge.

The people need to own the bridge.

Seize it!

If Matty sends out his private army of shave-domed, shotgun-slingin’ hooligans, why hey — I kinda think Detroit cops could sent em packin.

If there’s a problem, maybe Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans could lend a few deputies and even Gov. Jennifer Granholm could send in the National Guard.

Take the bridge. 

Wouldn’t that be great?

Number One thing a public owner would do? Have the bridge inspected for safety. That would be a first. That would lead, inevitably, to defusing the bomb under the bridge, i.e., dismantling those underground fuel storage tanks sitting under the bridge along with the 300,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel that are the biggest security risk facing this bridge. (The fuel storage situation no longer exists.)

Number Two: According to law, no more hazardous material trucks on the bridge. That would be a first.

Number Three: Run the bridge as a public entity generating revenue for the public treasury. Another first.

Lastly, tell Matty if he wants his bridge back, he can sue.

Isn’t that kind of what Matty’s telling the city?

I just could not understand why government officials didn’t push Matty back. Why let him get away with his outlaw behavior? If I tried to steal a public park, I’d go to jail. So I said in a May 15, 2009 essay, “Who’s the Thug?” in which I again called for booting him from park land and seizing his bridge:

Was I promoting “thuggish” behavior by arguing that Detroit should run Matty Moroun out of a city park, part of which he seized illegally alongside his Ambassador Bridge?

I’ve suggested sending a city work crew with a SWAT team for protection in case there’s any resistance from his musclebound, shotgun totin’ goons.

A reader says I’m ignoring Matty’s right to due process.

It’s a twisted line of reasoning that turns Matty into the victim rather than the palpable perp that he is.

Let’s be clear about this: Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the billionaire trucking mogul who stole part of Detroit’s public Riverside Park, has no lease on the property he seized. He had no permission from the city to destroy backetball courts and play fields so he could store construction junk on city property.

He paid no rent over the several years that he illegally used the park.

Now, I ask you: If a few poor, homeless people set up a tent city in Riverside Park, how long would it take for the city of Detroit to send cops to bounce the interlopers and tear down their tents?

And if the tent people refused to leave, what do you think would happen?

They’d be arrested and tossed into jail.

They’d be charged with trespassing, obstructing justice, littering and a host of other infractions. If they destroyed city property, they’d be charged with malicious destruction of property.

Why not treat Matty the same way?

Squatters are squatters.

Oh, I know — Matty has legions of lawyers with nothing better to do than tie up government in long, drawn-out court battles.

Is that why he gets special treatment?

I say charge him with the same counts anybody else would face if they destroyed city property and used it illegally.

This could all be done through courts, and Matty would get more due process than he gave citizens like me who were chased out of Riverside Park by his thugs.

We had a right to be there.

Hey, I wonder if there are civil rights issues involved with Matty’s ouster of people peacefully and legitimately using a public park?

Why this case of Matty seizing park property is being pursued by the city as a landlord-tenant case baffles me.

He’s created a public nuisance. No need for eviction proceedings. Give him the bum’s rush.

Boot him, then condemn his beloved Ambassador Bridge under eminent domain laws. Pay him a fair price and convert it to a publicly-owned, operated and regulated bridge.

If his shave-headed guards put up resistance, send in a SWAT team from Detroit and let the Mounties take the Canadian side.

I wrote on September 22, 2009,” Send a SWAT team to run him off city property,  charge him and his minions with criminal trespass, declare the bridge a public nuisance due to the explosive automotive fuel he’s storing under it and seize it under eminent domain.”

I’ve been pushing this idea for a long time. Take the goddam bridge!

Don’t think Matty isn’t worried that someday a government will try to take his bridge. In an April 17, 2010 essay, “Faces of Matty,” I reported on a Metro Times story that quoted one of Moroun’s lawyers threatening to shoot city employees who might try to take back Riverside Park:

Echoing a sentiment expressed more than once on this blog, city attorney Eric Gaabo remarked that the government could stop being polite and abandon the court process, since it has the legal power to seize 23rd Street back from Matty.

According to the Metro Times, Matty’s lawyer, William Seikaly, had this to say about that:

It’s a good thing that didn’t happen, responded Seikaly, saying that if any city employees tried to tear down the fence they “would be met by armed guards. Probably somebody would be shot.”

Ain’t that sweet?

Probably somebody would be shot.

City workers trying to fence off city property would be attacked with firearms.

By Matty’s goons.

Which is to say, by Matty.

That doesn’t play well around me.

I was confronted by one of Matty’s goons on city property.

“Probably would be shot.”

Well, that goon had a shotgun.

When he tried to arrest me, I walked away.

When he tried to block my car with his pickup, I drove away.

Guess I’m lucky.

I’m lucky the goon didn’t shoot me.

That was the real face of Matty.

Sometime late in 2010, the Windsor Star urged governments to seize the Ambassador Bridge. My blog post report of the fact included a link to the Star editorial, but the connection no longer exists. But it happened — a print newspaper actually took up my cry. I reported the Star’s position on December 8, 2010: “Seize the bridge!”:

The Windsor Star has called on Canadian governments to nationalize the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge linking the U.S. and Canada.

About time somebody took this idea seriously.

Besides me.

Back on May 14, 2009, I argued that governments, using their power of eminent domain, simply condemn Matty Moroun’s beloved, lucrative and decrepit Ambassador Bridge. There’s not much leadership right now on the U.S. side, but if the Canadians took over that portion of the bridge that rests on their territory, it might build a fire under U.S. authorities. It might shame them into doing what’s right for the common good instead of playing the billionaire’s shoddy game.

One piece of advice I’d change. Instead of having the Canadian and U.S. governments operate the bridge, I’d suggest doing one of two things: 1) Tear it down as a public nuisance and replace it with the government-supported Detroit River International Crossing bridge; or 2) build the DRIC, but re-open the Ambassador as a theme park dedicated to the merits of PUBLIC transportation.

By December 11, 2010, Fox Channel 2 picked up the story. I received a visit from one of their news crews and in an essay, “Me & Matty & Fox 2,” I reported on their report:

Bill Gallagher of Fox 2 stopped by Plymouth a few days ago and we chatted about Matty Moroun alongside the city’s picturesque Kellogg Park.

Later in the day, Fox 2 aired parts of our interview:

I seemed to be butting heads with Dan Stamper, another Plymouth Township resident who’s president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., paper owner of the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit in the U.S. with Windsor in Canada.

We know who the REAL owner of the bridge is.

Manuel “Matty” Moroun.

Here, as best I can recall, are the details of what I told Bill Gallagher:

If you or I decided maybe we’d pitch our tent in a city park and live there, how long do you think it would take Detroit police to run us out?

What if I went down to Riverside Park and tore down city-owned basketball courts and shade trees so I could use the site for a new money-making bridge for me while meantime storing construction debris where kids used to play basketball?

What if I put up a chain link fence to keep the public out of a public park?

Just to add insult to my actions, what if I hung phony “Homeland Security” signs from my illegal fence?

What if I hired security guards — shotgun totin’ goons — and had them run citizens out of this public park just because I wanted the place for my own money-grubbing pursuits?

What if I stole city property to build a duty-free store and gas station?

How long do you think it would be before a SWAT team hauled me off in handcuffs while bulldozers tore down the fence, trashed the signs and leveled my store?

Pronto is how fast it would happen.

If it were you or me we’d be jailed on charges of criminal trespassing.

But the perp is Matty Moroun, and Matty Moroun gets away with it.

The city’s been in court more than two years trying to evict this miscreant from a public park.

They’re in court now trying to make him raze that store and build according to plan.

But he’s Matty Moroun.

He’s a billionaire

He gets away with behavior that would put you and me behind bars.

You know what? Matty used to claim his bridge was a “federal instrumentality” with the power to seize property under eminent domain. The courts told him that’s baloney.

But I know a REAL federal instrumentality invested with the power to seize private property like Matty’s prized bridge.

It’s called the “federal government.”

Memo to Barack:

Take the bridge!



Posted in Bad government, Joel's J School, Me & Matty | Leave a comment

WSU reporters and Duggan: the rest of the story

By Joel Thurtell

You would think from reading the August 18, 2015 Detroit Free Press article about two Wayne State University student reporters who were stonewalled by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s staff that the Free Press broke the story.

Thanks to Jack Lessenberry and Metro Times for noting the role of joelontheroad.

The story appeared here on May 22 – nearly three months before the Free Press published.

In my novel, CROSS PURPOSES, OR, IF NEWSPAPERS HAD COVERED THE CRUCIFIXION, a newshound opines that what newspapers refuse to print often is more interesting than what they publish.

I can’t explain why the Free Press chose not to report why WSU students Alexander Franzen and Timothy Carroll came to request records from the mayor. But I believe the story would have been more interesting if the newspaper had explained the background.

Why, for instance, did the students make two trips – May 12 and 14 – to the mayor’s office asking for the proposed Riverside Park land swap agreement between Duggan and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun?

Why, as the Free Press reported, did the student reporters not make their request for the agreement under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act instead of relying on a provision in the Michigan Penal Code few have heard of?

The student reporters were sent by me. I was their teacher. I am a retired Free Press reporter who has written extensively about Moroun since I left the paper eight years ago.

In May, I told the Free Press what happened to the WSU reporters. Later, I supplied their reporter the audio recording of the students’ encounter with Duggan’s staff that the Free Press published without attribution.

The Free Press noted that Duggan’s staffers told the reporters the agreement did not exist on paper and was merely “an idea.” The paper reported that the mayor’s staff lied to the students: the agreement did indeed exist and had been signed by the mayor. Those too were pieces of the story.

The Free Press chose not to explain why the students used the Penal Code instead of FOIA. And the paper didn’t mention that on May 22, the teacher – me — asked the Wayne County prosecutor to investigate this apparent violation of the Penal Code by Duggan’s staff and repeated the request on July 26. My request to the prosecutor contained a written request for an investigation written by the two reporters. The newspaper was aware that the prosecutor had declined to respond to my requests,but elected not to mention those facts. (There is still no response from the prosecutor.)

What was I thinking? Why did I send student reporters to Duggan’s office? Why use the Penal Code instead of FOIA?

Back in May, I was at Wayne State teaching a journalism class, Communications 5310. COM 5310 is unusual. Instead of having 15 weeks to study and produce, students have one week: eight-to-five Monday through Friday for 40 hours, plus five hours of homework equals 45 hours.

When your class is over in five days, May 11-15, the 15-day delay built into FOIA makes that law useless.

But there is the Michigan Penal Code. The Penal Code requires that public officials turn over records upon request during normal office hours. If the officials refuse to comply, they can be imprisoned for up to a year or fined $1,000.

The Penal Code — a disclosure law with teeth!

I have never encountered another journalist familiar with the penal code’s public record clause. But faced with five days to finish an investigation, it seemed worth trying.

When I agreed to teach COM 5310, I wondered what the class project should be. Whatever the topic, it needed to concern Wayne State or Detroit, and it needed to be compelling.

Then, on April 29, Mayor Duggan announced his land swap deal with Matty Moroun.

I first wrote about Riverside Park on September 22, 2008, when I reported Matty’s ambition of swapping land to acquire a piece of park he needs to build a replacement span for his Ambassador Bridge. Now here was Mike Duggan agreeing to make Matty’s dream real. The issue was controversial. It affects Detroit, the region and has international implications.

Thank you, Mike Duggan. We had our project.

I wrote in the COM 5310 syllabus:


This one-week intensive class will focus on techniques and tactics of investigative reporting. Part classroom, part newsroom, students will work on a real investigative project with local, state, national and international overtones.

Forty hours of class time multiplied by seven students is 280 hours of time that we can use to conduct an investigation. The focus of the course will be Mayor Duggan’s recent proposal to swap land from Detroit’s Riverside Park to Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun in return for nearby land owned by Moroun.

Now that we had our focus, how would we get records? In the syllabus, I continued:

In a five-day class, there is no time to file Freedom of information Act requests that allow government officials 15 days to respond. Instead, our tools will be the Michigan Constitution, which requires that officials disclose financial records on demand; and the Michigan Penal Code, which makes it a crime for public officials to refuse to disclose public records.

Given that the Penal Code was largely unknown to journalists, our use of that law would test a novel use of a little-known law meant to help citizens get access to public records.

This is how I explained the class in an email to the Free Press’s Joe Guillen:

I envisioned the class use of the Penal Code as an experiment that would run parallel to our investigation of the park agreement. What would happen if we requested information through the Penal Code rather than through FOIA? If this were truly an experiment, we could not confuse matters by using two request formats. We needed to stick to the Penal Code alone if we wanted uncontaminated results.

Had we filed FOIA requests while invoking the Penal Code, we might not know which technique led to success or failure. Moreover, FOIA would give officials an escape route away from the threat of criminal action contained in the Penal Code.

It appears that Duggan’s people are retroactively trying to use that escape hatch by saying that no FOIA request was made. My response: no FOIA request was necessary. The students made their request under a different law, the Penal Code.

The results so far of this experiment have been fascinating. We have detected Duggan’s staff blowing off student reporters with the lie that the documents did not exist. Now the officials say the students should have filed a FOIA request for what were claimed to be non-existent records.

The Penal Code is a law separate from the Freedom of Information Act. It does not mention written requests. It does not mention deadlines and reasons why officials might procrastinate or stonewall. It simply says, turn the records over upon request, or face criminal action.

So far, the prosecutor has ignored my request for her to investigate. Her behavior shows the weakness of the Penal Code as a tool for obtaining documents. While FOIA provides document requesters a way to challenge officials in court, the Penal Code provides only criminal sanctions and thus relies on the good will of a county prosecutor to challenge a denial.

I told Joe Guillen:

The experiment continues: Does a state law requiring immediate disclosure of public records with criminal penalties for refusal have any meaning?

Drop me a line at joelthurtell(at)











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Waiting for Worthy

By Joel Thurtell

More than two months ago, I mailed a letter asking Kym Worthy, the Wayne County prosecuting attorney, to investigate Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office for refusing to disclose his deal with Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun for a land swap at the city’s Riverside Park.

Two students from a Wayne State University investigative reporting class taught by me in mid-May were twice told by staffers in Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office that the agreement Duggan announced April 29 between the city and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun was only “an idea” and did not exist as a record.

I mailed my request to Worthy because it reports criminal behavior — the refusal of the mayor’s staffers to provide records is a violation of the Michigan Penal Code, which makes it a crime for officials to withhold public records when requested by citizens during normal business hours. The punishment for violations is up to a year in prison or up to a $1,000 fine.

Reporters asked for the document on May 12 and again on May 14. When I finally received it — not from Duggan — the agreement turned out to be a lengthy document dated April 29 and notarized May 4. A mere “idea” indeed.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press has reported the mayor and his minions have been using private email accounts exempt from public disclosure to deal with Moroun.

The law requires that officials release public records on request, not just when they feel like it.






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The Matty warranty

By Joel Thurtell

Detroit’s City Council is getting lots of pressure to approve Mayor Duggan’s deal to dice up Riverside Park for the billionaire Matty Moroun.

People with no stake in the outcome of this issue are urging council to trust Mayor Mike and Matty.

Council should trust their own judgment.

It is easy to say with the mayor and journalists that it doesn’t matter what Detroit does, because Canada will never allow Matty to build a new span.

Would those who make that prediction be willing to bet, say, their salary, or their house, or their pension that Matty will never get his way?

I have an idea. I call it the “Matty Warranty.”

According to the Matty Warranty, those politicians and journalists who predict that Matty will never build a new bridge would place the deed to their house in escrow. They would forfeit their home to the city if a second Moroun bridge is built.

I would go further: Those who claim Matty has turned over a new leaf would lose their homes if it turns out that he’s cheating on the swap deal and if he files new lawsuits aimed at killing the Gordie Howe Bridge.

How many  crystal ball gazers would stake their home on that fantasy?






Posted in Bad government, Joel's J School, Me & Matty, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Professor mayor

By Joel Thurtell

Butch Hollowell, Mike Duggan’s mouthpiece, claims there was nothing to hide in his private emails to minions of Matty Moroun last spring as city officials cut the land swap deal involving Detroit’s Riverside Park.

If there was nothing secret about the deal, why did Mayor Duggan’s staff lie to Wayne State University journalism students who asked to see the written deal?

Class reporters Alexander Franzen and Timothy Carroll asked for the document on May 12 and again on May 14. The students were taking a Wayne State University investigative reporting class taught by me. The week-long assignment for eight students was to dig into the land deal between Mike and Matty.

Duggan staffers told the students the swap was only “an idea” and did not exist as a record.

After the WSU reporters’ departure from Duggan’s office on May 14, staff from the mayor’s office sent the agreement to City Council. The following day, a friend outside government sent me a copy of the agreement that came from a council member.

Something more than a mere “idea,” the multi-page document is dated April 29 and was notarized on May 4. It was a paper record, not just an “idea.”

The students were bamboozled by Duggan’s henchmen, presumably following Mike’s orders.

What does that make Mike?

A superb teacher.

I wanted my students to learn I.F. Stone’s maxim that reporters should assume officials are prima facie liars until they prove otherwise.

Thanks for the lesson, Mike!


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Dr. Fonde’s fund

The University of Michigan Family Medicine Department will establish a fund to honor my wife, Karen Fonde. It will be called The Karen R. Fonde, M.D. Family Medicine Underserved Populations Fund.  Checks made out to the University of Michigan are tax-deductible.

Karen R. Fonde, M.D. was a member of the University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine from 1993-2010. An assistant professor, she was instrumental in the opening of the family medicine clinic at the Ypsilanti Health Center, where she saw patients and taught both residents and medical students for many years.

Not your typical medical student, Dr. Fonde graduated from U-M’s medical school at age 40. She then completed her residency training with the Department before becoming a faculty member. She was passionate about science and helping others and family medicine was a perfect fit. Before her career in medicine, Dr. Fonde focused on education. She and her husband, Joel Thurtell, also served as Peace Corps volunteers in Togo, Africa.

Dr. Fonde died on March 1, 2015, at age 65, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Karen R. Fonde, M.D. Family Medicine Underserved Populations Fund has a goal of $100,000. The Fund will support medically underserved populations in the U.S. and the world through focused initiatives, programs and hands-on experiences.

The Fund constitutes a gift for endowment, and distributions from the Fund shall be made in accordance with the University’s then existing distribution policy. Any surplus distributions during any period may be accumulated for later use or may be added to the principal of the fund, at the University’s discretion.

Karen was passionate about science and helping others, as was evident from her work as a Peace Corps volunteer and her commitment to the success of the Ypsilanti Health Center and the Corner Health Center, which provides health care to underserved adolescents in Ypsilanti. This Fund honors Dr. Fonde’s tireless work and will carry on her dedication to helping the underserved in perpetuity.


Name:       _______________________________________                      Amount:       _______________


Address:       _______________________________________                             Fund:       Fonde Endowment

_______________________________________                    Payment:       Check (enclosed)

Telephone:       ­­­­­­­­_______________________________________                                                  Credit Card



CC Number:       _______________________________________                 Expiration:       _______________


Please return to: Amy C. St. Amour, Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, 1150 West Medical Center Drive, M7300 Medical Science I – SPC 5625, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109.

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Secrets of Riverside Park: my letter to prosecutor

By Joel Thurtell

What was the big secret about the deal Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan cut with billionaire trucking magnate Matty Moroun to trade pieces of land at the city’s Riverside Park? Why did Duggan staffers lie to two Wayne State University reporters who came looking for the agreement between the mayor and the owner of the Ambassador Bridge? Why not simply show the agreement to the reporters instead of claiming there was no record, only an “idea”?

The answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that the secretive behavior end. I’m hoping that an outside authority — Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy — will instruct the mayor and his staff that they  need to serve the public and not themselves.

Here is the letter I sent May 20, 2015 to Worthy asking her to investigate the mayor’s office for possible violations of the Michigan Penal Code, which makes it a crime for public officials to withhold public records when requested by citizens during normal business hours. The punishment for violations is up to a year in prison or up to a $1,000 fine.

May 20, 2015

Dear Ms. Worthy:

I am requesting that you investigate violations of the Michigan Penal Code by staff in Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan’s office on May 12 and May 14, 2015. In violation of the Penal Code provision that public records must be disclosed upon request during normal business hours of a governmental office, staff in Mayor Duggan’s office not only refused to disclose the April 29, 2015 agreement between Mayor Duggan and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun regarding a proposed swap of land at the city-owned Riverside Park. Mayor’s staff insisted the agreement did not exist as a document at all, but only as “an idea,” even though it was announced publicly April 29 by Mayor Duggan and notarized on May 4.

The requests were made during mayor’s office business hours by Timothy Carroll, former executive editor of the Wayne State University newspaper, The South End, and by Alexander Franzen, current editor-in-chief of The South End. The requests were part of document-gathering during a Wayne State University class, Communications 5310, on investigative reporting. I was the instructor for the five-day class which ran from May11-15. Mr. Carroll and Mr. Franzen were students in the class. Because the subject of the class was the agreement between Mayor Duggan and Matty Moroun involving the land swap at Riverside Park, acquiring a copy of the agreement for analysis and further reporting was critical to the outcome of the class. It was needed early in the week. Had the class relied on Mayor Duggan’s office, we would never have seen the agreement.

Following is a letter addressed to you and written by Mr. Carroll describing the student reporters’ treatment by mayor’s staff:

Dear Ms. Worthy,

This letter is to complain about a denial to view public records from the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. I believe that this denial was a violation of the Michigan Penal Code. Chapter 750, 328-1931-LXXI, Section 750.492 of the MPC states that public records must be disclosed during business hours. The code is attached to this letter.

On Tuesday, May 12 and again on Thursday, May 14, my colleague Alex Franzen and I attempted to request public documents from the Mayor’s office related to a land tranfer agreement between the city and the Detroit International Bridge Company. On May 12, we asked to see the agreement. We were told by the Mayor’s executive assistant Kitty Whitfield that it was not a public record until it was submitted to the City Clerk’s office and that the agreement was “like an idea.”

On a second visit to the mayor’s office on May 14, Whitfield called Detroit communications director John Roach and spoke with him about the availability of the document. Roach told Whitfield that all the information the Mayor’s office wanted to share with the public was available online. I then read the MPC to Whitfield in another attempt to view the document but was interrupted by Whitfield, who argued that the agreement was not a public record because it had not been submitted to the City Clerk and therefore, was not available.

However, the agreement was announced in a public press conference on April 29 where details of the agreement were verbally disclosed by Mayor Mike Duggan and others. The written agreement was then notarized by the Detroit International Bridge Company on the same day. Lastly, the deal was approved and signed by the mayor and notarized by Oakland County Notary Public Amanda Elias on May 4, eight days before we requested to see this document.

I believe that this written agreement became a public document when it was verbally announced to the public on April 29. This was reinforced when the written agreement was approved by Mayor Mike Duggan on May 4 and notarized. Furthermore, the disclosure of these records are in the public interest.

The agreement existed as a public record at the time it was requested. The denial of the mayor’s office to disclose the records is a direct violation of the Michigan Penal Code.

End of reporters’ letter.

Following the second request by Mr. Carroll and Mr. Franzen on May 14, officials in the mayor’s office sent the agreement to the city clerk. The following day, May 15, I received a copy of the agreement from someone outside government who in turn received it from a city council member. No effort was made by the mayor’s office to notify the reporters that the agreement was available. Thanks only to luck and good will by a non-official person, students were able to consider the agreement in the last hours of the class.

By law, the WSU reporters had a right to inspect that agreement on Tuesday, May 12, when they first asked for it. Due to deceit by staff in the mayor’s office, the reporters were prevented from considering the agreement in a timely way.

I am attaching this letter to an email along with a second attachment – an audio recording made by Mr. Carroll and Mr. Franzen when they requested the agreement on May 14.

The two WSU reporters were told by Mayor Duggan’s staff that “all the information the mayor’s office wanted to share with the public was available online.” It is important for public officials, including Mayor Duggan, to understand that the law does not permit them to cherry-pick what information they disclose and what information they withhold from the public. Rather, the law requires that public officials, as part of their public duties, disclose all public records impartially, without obstructing citizens who make legitimate requests.

Please investigate the illegal withholding of a public record from citizens who made not one, but two good-faith efforts to request disclosure.

Yours truly,

Joel Thurtell

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Probe demanded in Riverside Park record denial

By Joel Thurtell

Two students from a Wayne State University investigative reporting class taught by me last week were told by staffers in Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office that the agreement Duggan announced April 29 between the city and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun was only “an idea” and did not exist as a record.

The reporters were students whose one-week investigative project was the proposed swap of land between the city and Moroun at the Detroit’s Riverside Park.

Reporters Alexander Franzen and Timothy Carroll asked for the document on May 12 and again on May 14. After the WSU reporters’ departure from Duggan’s office on May 14, staff from the mayor’s office sent the agreement to City Council. The following day, a friend outside government sent me a copy of the agreement that came from a council member.

Something more than a mere “idea,” the multi-page document document is dated April 29 and was notarized on May 4.

Today, May 20, 2015, I asked Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy for an investigation into possible violations of the Michigan Penal Code, which makes it a crime for public officials to withhold public records when requested by citizens during normal business hours. The punishment for violations is up to a year in prison or up to a $1,000 fine.

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Watch for news about Matty & MIke

By Joel Thurtell

As we say in radio, I’ve been off the air for a while. But I’ll be back — soon.

And I’ll have news about the latest circus in Detroit — the Matty & Mike Show.

Stay tuned.


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