Ethics for idiots

Kwame’s administration appears to have all the ethics of a car-trunk seafood salesman. By the way, it’s OK to refer to Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick by his first name; that’s how he does it himself, in the third person.

There’s plenty of evidence: Appointees who pick the public pocket, then get off with paying back only some of it because they already spent the rest. So many city-paid high school cronies of the young mayor that they can barely fit at one table when sponging drinks at high-end downtown restaurants. And then there’s that solid gold example of ethical ignorance, mayoral chief of staff Christine Beatty, and her care and feeding by the big man himself.

Put aside her alleged after-hours relationship with Kwame. There’s precedent for it. Coleman Young once had a girlfriend/appointee (referred to by at least one of his pals as “Coleman’s little ham sandwich”), whose ineptitude led to the vermin infestation and rotting of hundreds of tons of federal surplus food for the poor. Young tried valiantly to shield his sweet-patootie from the consequences of her massive screw-up, but that much howling from that many hungry mouths left them both spattered with rat-gnawed cheese.

Beatty’s a different case. She knows what she’s doing. And what she’s doing makes a mockery of all true public servants who remember exactly who their employer is and do their jobs with as much honesty and energy as they can muster.

A few Detroit cops learned exactly who Beatty is when she was stopped for speeding one night on rain-slick Livernois. She made sure of it with a foul-mouthed tirade at the officers who offended her, then got off the hook by calling the police chief on her cell phone. Taking the ticket would’ve only hurt her already miserable driving record. Kwame’s reaction to this, when pressed for one? Chrissy must’ve been set up by the cops, no two ways about it. He sullied an entire, already morale-parched city department for the sake of one girlfr, er, appointee. Now all cops know exactly who Beatty is.

And loan officers at one bank know who she is too. She made sure of it. Since her credit history is in the same shape as her driving record, Christine faced certain resistance when she applied for a loan to buy a $237,000 pad in Rosedale Park. So she asked the folks at Fifth Third Bank to give her a break and, no fools they, she got it. She wrote her request on the letterhead of Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor of Detroit. She signed it as Christine Beatty, the mayor’s chief of staff. The reasoning, evident in court documents, was a little mutual fingernail action. Scratch Christine’s itch, and the city will scratch the bank’s. Fifth Third was so eager to start in scratching that it not only forgave Beatty’s low standing as a credit risk, but kicked in $12,000 to help out with the down payment. Chrissy, by the way, pulls down more than $140,000 a year from her city job.

Quizzed about this by pesky reporters — at least, those who don’t work for bosses who regard and ignore some Detroit news as “divisive” — Mayoral Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, whose words and actions set the tone for all those beneath her just as surely as the mayor’s, said she did nothing wrong.

It’s her personal opinion that this particular tit for tat doesn’t violate a city charter provision that says no to using public office to leverage personal gain.

But let’s suppose that no such charter prohibition existed. Let’s just say it’s a question of personal ethics and ethical standards. Christine Beatty may not be Caesar’s wife — actually, we’ve heard nothing from her during all this — but she should still be above reproach. And figuring out whether she is in this instance is not a toughie — it doesn’t require consultation with top ethics professors at five major universities to say, without fear of contradiction, that she ain’t.

So what’s Caesar have to say? He says he, Kwame, did nothing wrong. And instead of looking at Beatty’s clear-cut, plain-as-day influence peddling, her boyfr, er, boss howled about the outrage of her personal financial records being made public. It’s worth noting at this juncture that all this came out as part of a lawsuit filed by a couple of former cops who say they were canned for looking a little too closely at the mayor’s hanky-panky.

You have to draw one of two conclusions from Kilpatrick administration behavior so far. Either they, and he, don’t know an ethical breach even when it threatens to bite them on the ass, or they, and he, don’t care.

Considering that much of the young mayor’s original support came from Bible-thumping, God-fearing senior voters, he might want to invest in a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Ethics, then stay home for one night and at least skim it.

Or, like the Slim Pickens character in Dr. Strangelove, he can ride this bomb to the ground (no prurient implication intended).

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