By Diane Bukowski
Nov. 19, 2012
DETROIT — Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown has been the chief Council member pressing for passage of the EMA contract, through the Public Health and Safety Committee which he chairs.
During that committee’s hearing Nov. 19, many from the public asked who was paying Council members to sell off all of Detroit’s major assets.
“All but two Council members have sold their souls to the corporations,” Tyrone Travis said. “Thomas Jefferson said that when you have a government that prevents you from pursuing life, liberty and happiness, you must get rid of that government. We have got a vested interest to organize, not to waste time appealing to people who have sold their souls to the devil. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not go before the council, or the courts. He organized people, he started a boycott and demonstrations, and the people won their demands in 30 days. They are taking our homes, they have shut our schools, they are stripping the city of its assets. We must organize now to shut the city down and take everything back.”
Aside from whatever secret dealings he has had as part of U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox’s “Roots Cause Committee,” a review of Brown’s city council campaign finance documents shows strong connections with BOWC vice-chair James F. Thrower, and many Water Department contractors.
Most striking are the number of contributions from executives associated with the Lakeshore Group, Inland Waters Pollution Control, and Nth Consultants. They were all involved in the $50 million Macomb Interceptor sinkhole repair project which began in 2004, under the administration of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Macomb County sued Lakeshore Engineering and Inland Waters for alleged overbilling of $25 million on the project. The project is also tied to the federal criminal trial of Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, and Bobby Ferguson, another DWSD contractor.
A spokesperson for Lakeshore, Audrey Young, said however that Lakeshore had been dismissed from the lawsuit early on. VOD is still checking for court records on the case.
Lakeshore Engineering’s CEO Avinash Rachmale and its Vice-President Thomas Hardiman are currently testifying against the defendants in the Kilpatrick trial, claiming they were extorted by them to include Ferguson’s company in the project. It is possible that they and other corporate witnesses were threatened with federal charges in order to obtain their testimony. (See recent Channel 7 report on their testimony below.)
Macomb County’s actions may have been directed to wrest control of DWSD from the City of Detroit, which they and Oakland County have partially done, with the compliance of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, under a Feb. 2011 deal reached under Judge Sean Cox.
But nonetheless they raise questions about dirty dealings behind large-scale private contracting everywhere.
Since he took office, contributions to Gary Brown from large-scale, mainly white-owned contractors who often do business with the Water Department, the Transportation Department and others have gone up dramatically, according to campaign finance reports which can now be accessed online at the Wayne County Clerk’s website at http://www.wccampaignfinance.com/. Many of these contracts come through his committee before going to Council.
VOD looked at Brown’s reports submitted from 2009 to 2012, and pulled out contractors associated with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, as shown in the chart below. The list is likely not complete due to time constraints. VOD will also research Council President Charles Pugh’s contributions this week.
Since this story was completed after-hours, Brown was not available for comment. But he owes the public which elected him an explanation at the Council meetings Nov. 20.
GARY BROWN’S CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS, 2009-2012 FROM THOSE WITH FINANCIAL INTERESTS IN THE DETROIT WATER DEPARTMENT.