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.