Before the Free Press printed the contents of tawdry text messages between Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, and before the recent civil trial where the two officials denied under oath that they were romantically involved, there was this Metro Times story that first brought the allegations of infidelity to light. From the outset, Kilpatrick’s response has been to steadfastly deny any illicit behavior and attack his accusers as liars seeking a big payoff in court. And that gets to the core of what has always made this an important story — not allegations of philandering, but rather the actions of a mayor willing to ruin the careers of two police officers in order to protect his public image.
— Curt Guyette, 1/25/08
Allegations that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has engaged in extramarital affairs reverberated through Detroit late last week. Once the story broke Friday afternoon, print, radio and television news outlets rushed to provide broad coverage of sworn statements contained in court documents.
The mayor offered a wholesale denial of the allegations at a news conference later that same day, saying the accusations are coming from people with an ulterior motive: money.
Gary A. Brown, former head of the Detroit Police Department's internal affairs unit, and Officer Harold C. Nelthrope are seeking a combined $14 million in a Whistleblower Protection Act civil lawsuit filed last year against the mayor, the city and others.
Many of the allegations, first reported by Metro Times on its Web site, were contained in confidential mediation summaries that document the basis for Nelthrope's and Brown's cases. Those summaries were recently presented to a three-lawyer mediation panel, which proposed a settlement figure.
In a May 20 memo to the Mayor's Office and the city's Law Department, Councilwoman Sharon McPhail wrote: "Word has reached me that these cases have been to mediation and that the mediation amounts proposed by the panel for these two cases totals over 2 million dollars."
McPhail wouldn't comment on her memo or any other aspect of the case, though her memo states that any settlement should, by law, get council consideration.
Each side has until June 1 to accept or reject the proposed settlement. If either side balks, the civil case will proceed to trial.
Kilpatrick administration officials did not return calls seeking comment on Monday. Metro Times' requests for a copy of the city's mediation summary were ignored.
Mike Stefani, attorney for Brown and Nelthrope, would not comment on the amount of the settlement proposal, but said he expects this case to go to trial.
While the alleged sexual escapades have been a focus of media attention, if the city ends up paying out millions of dollars, it will be because of allegations that officers were retaliated against for simply doing their jobs rather than the mayor's alleged "philandering."
"When he [the mayor] lets a private matter affect how the city is run, then that personal matter becomes a public matter," says Stefani.
Beatty at the crux
Key to the case is mayoral chief of staff Christine Beatty, one of at least four women the plaintiffs accuse the mayor of having trysts with.
Beatty did not return calls seeking comment.
As with the mayor, the accusations leveled against Beatty are newsworthy because of actions she and others in the administration allegedly took to conceal the purported infidelity.
Among other things, the plaintiffs' mediation summaries accuse Beatty of lying about the sequence of events that led to Brown's removal as head of the internal affairs unit.
Attorney Stefani tells Metro Times that the Michigan State Police asked the Attorney General's Office for an arrest warrant charging Beatty with perjury and obstruction of justice, but that the attorney general declined.
Asked specifically about Stefani's assertion, Matt Davis, spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox, would only say that there was "no basis to make any charges" at the conclusion of a state investigation into allegations of abuses by Kilpatrick's security unit.
Nelthrope contacted internal affairs in April 2003 with allegations that some members of the mayor's Executive Protection Unit were fraudulently padding time sheets, drinking while on duty and covering up accidents involving department vehicles. Nelthrope also reported rumors of a party involving strippers at the mayoral residence, the city-owned Manoogian Mansion.
Investigations by the attorney general and State Police found no evidence the party had occurred. However, prior to the launch of those investigations, the administration released a confidential report identifying Nelthrope as the source of the allegations. And Brown, a 26-year veteran, was removed as the head of internal affairs. Two other high-ranking members of the unit were transferred out.
In addition, two other officers have since filed lawsuits also claiming retaliation.
Officer Walt Harris, who served as a bodyguard to former Mayor Dennis Archer during his administration, alleges that he became the target of a smear campaign after he cooperated with state investigators last year. Harris resigned from the department and moved to Indiana.
Last month, Lt. Alvin Bowman filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that he was transferred out of the homicide division for investigating the killing of Tamara Greene, a 27-year-old stripper who claimed to have performed at the Manoogian Mansion party that the attorney general called an "urban myth."
Kilpatrick came into office riding campaign promises to clean up a troubled Police Department being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department. Now, claim some, attempts at reform have been dealt a severe blow.
"This has definitely had a chilling effect," says Officer Reggie Crawford, a 27-year veteran.
The Kilpatrick administration, says Crawford, "has an agenda to discourage officers from reporting improprieties" on the part of the mayor and those close to him.
"Some of us will continue to step up and step forward," says Crawford, who helped establish a reward fund in an attempt to find Greene's killer. "But it makes it difficult going to work every day."
There are other repercussions as well.
"Officially, I'm waiting to see what turns up in the court process," says City Council President Maryann Mahaffey. "I'm not assuming anyone's guilty. But this is a terrible cloud hanging over our heads when there are such needs out there."
The controversy is boiling over as the city attempts to deal with a pending budget deficit of more than $300 million, and Mahaffey is concerned about the time and energy the Kilpatrick administration must spend defending itself in court.
"We don't need to have everything tied up in this," says Mahaffey. "We have services to deliver."
The Whistleblower Protection Act civil suit brought by Nelthrope and Brown hinges on allegations that members of Kilpatrick's security unit abetted a "playboy lifestyle" that included extramarital trysts. The two officers claim their careers were ruined when it appeared they might reveal the mayor's behavior, according to the mediation summaries.
The suit names Kilpatrick, former Police Chief Jerry Oliver, media consultant Bob Berg and the city of Detroit as defendants.
At a hastily called news conference outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center late Friday afternoon, Kilpatrick issued a sweeping denial, calling all the allegations contained in the mediation summaries "lies."
"These individuals want money," said Kilpatrick. "They will say anything to
Kilpatrick pointed out that the Michigan Attorney General and State Police had already investigated the allegations and found them to be false.
However, attorney Stefani tells Metro Times that investigators from the state — who were probing rumors of the party at the mansion and allegations against members of the mayor's security detail — were told of the affairs and explicitly said they had no interest in investigating them.
City attorneys had tried to keep the allegations from becoming public by obtaining a court order that sealed sworn depositions in the case. They had also tried to keep Kilpatrick and his wife, Carlita, from being deposed.
On Friday, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Callahan ruled that the Kilpatricks must provide deposition testimony to Stefani before the end of June. City attorneys have appealed that decision in the hope they can still prevent the mayor and his wife from having to testify under oath.
Callahan, responding to a motion filed by the Detroit Free Press, also ruled Friday that depositions previously sealed by Judge Kaye Tertzag were to be unsealed.
Much of the testimony describing Kilpatrick's alleged illicit trysts is provided by Harris, who claims he suffered retaliation for providing information to investigators from the Attorney General's Office and Michigan State Police who were probing Nelthrope's allegations.
While the AG announced that there was no evidence to indicate that the Manoogian party ever had occurred, he did find overtime pay abuse on the part of Kilpatrick's security unit, which, at the time, was dominated by Kilpatrick's longtime friend, Officer Loronzo "Greg" Jones.
According to the mediation summary, neither Jones nor Martin suffered repercussions for "defrauding the overtime system and failing to report accidents." Although both initially transferred from the EPU to other assignments, "there was no Detroit Police Department follow-up investigation" to departmentally discipline them, according to court documents.
"For the department not to pursue discipline charges against these two men sends a clear message to the entire Department that the Mayor's friends are above the law," asserts Stefani in one mediation summary, which notes that Martin is back working on Kilpatrick's security detail.
In the plaintiffs' pleading submitted to the mediation panel, it is alleged that the overtime abuse was allowed to occur because Jones and others on the security squad "facilitated the Mayor's playboy lifestyle." According to the documents, Harris offered the following testimony during his deposition regarding Beatty and the mayor:
"He [the mayor] would give us the order to go over to Chris', Chris' house, and we'd go. By this time we know where she lives. We've been over there many times in the evenings. And we would get there, let the Mayor out, he goes up. He's, 'I'll be back out' and we get back in the car. And we're sitting there and I'm asking Sergeant [Michael] Moore and I said what if her husband comes home, you know, what do we do, do we run out and knock on the door, do we blow the horn, do we stop him from going up the drive at his own house … maybe, he, you know, knows about this and maybe he doubles back home."
Asked during his deposition if he remembered having such a conversation outside Beatty's house, Moore, who is not a party to the lawsuit, testified: "I can't recall specifically what our conversation was. It was more or less concerning that we did not want to be sitting there when her husband came home."
Harris testified to another incident involving Beatty, this one occurring while she and the mayor were out of town on city business. Harris described members of Kilpatrick's security detail accompanying the mayor to his hotel room:
"[H]e gets to his room and he jams his key into the door. He say, 'Y'all good, go ahead.' We was like 'Mr. Mayor, you know, what's going on? We've got to check your room.' … He's like, 'I'm okay.' He's guarding the door again. 'You guys go ahead.' And he opens the door and lo and behold there's Christine Beatty there and he goes in and he slams the door closed and we [Harris and fellow bodyguard] both look at each other and laugh. Christine Beatty's in there and we start laughing. He didn't want us to know Christine Beatty was inside."
According to the mediation documents, Beatty testified that, while she did accompany the mayor on out-of-town trips as his chief of staff, "her duties did not require her to spend any time with the Mayor in hotel rooms alone together."
Harris testified about trysts the mayor allegedly had with other women, including one that Harris says occurred while he was on duty at the Manoogian Mansion. The mediation summary offers this account:
"[A]t approximately 1:00 a.m., the Mayor came down the stairs from his bedroom and told Officer Harris to come with him. Harris hurried to grab his radio and other equipment and when he got out to the garage, the Mayor had already started the car and told Harris to drive. The Mayor directed Harris to drive down Jefferson to a condominium complex called The Lofts."
The summary states that Harris and the mayor sat outside waiting for someone to open the electronic gate to the parking lot. A woman soon appeared wearing a full-length mink coat; as she fumbled with her card key to open the gate the wind blew her coat open and "it was apparent she was naked underneath," the document states.
Harris testified: "So I said, 'Mr. Mayor, what apartment are you going in? I need to know where you're going.' He said, 'Don't worry about it.' The female was standing there waiting on him. He said 'I'll be out in forty five (sic) minutes.' So the Mayor walked up to her, hugged her, put his arm around her and they walked up the walkway and went towards The Lofts, the apartments there. And I got out and tried to look and see exactly where they were going, because I wanted to know where he was — you know, in the event something happened I need to know where he's at … so I just sat in the vehicle waiting on him. And maybe an hour…maybe an hour and five minutes, the Mayor came out. He just came out, he jumped in the car and said let's go, and we drove back to the Manoogian."
Harris and his family have since moved away from the metro Detroit area. Described in the documents as a former NFL player who is 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Harris was asked during his deposition the reason for his move.
"I'm not concerned for myself," he testified, "but I am concerned about my family, about my wife, and my children, and that's why I moved them out of the city, out of the state, and I moved myself. … Let me say I am concerned. However, if — how can I put this? I'll say they're going to have to come to my environment. … Now, you come down to my environment and I'm going to defend myself to my very last breath, and my family."
Nelthrope testified that he and another officer witnessed an encounter between the mayor and a woman he referred to as his "Jamaican friend" in the back room of a barbershop on Leslie Street in Detroit.
"The Mayor and the young woman went into the barber shop where the barber was giving a haircut to the Mayor's friend and Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Miller," according to the mediation summary. "The mayor and the young woman went straight to the back room of the barber shop and closed the door. By this time it was approximately 11:00 p.m. Nelthrope and the other officer remained in the main portion of the barber shop looking through the shop's window at the street.
"As Nelthrope and the other officer were looking out of the barber shop window, they saw the Mayor's wife drive by the front of the barber shop. Nelthrope and the other officer were surprised and wondered if the Mayor's wife had seen the Mayor enter the barber shop with the young Jamaican woman.
"The officers were nervous. They discussed whether to knock on the back room door and tell the Mayor his wife had just driven by. They decided against disturbing the Mayor and remained at the front window keeping an eye out for the mayor's wife."
When recruited to serve on Kilpatrick's Executive Protection Unit (EPU) in January 2002, Harold C. Nelthrope had been a Detroit police officer for nearly 17 years.
Stefani describes him in the mediation summary as a "Hard-working, dependable and honest police officer. He is the kind of steady-eddy public servant on which the citizens of the City of Detroit depend for police service."
He joined a security unit "nominally" headed by Deputy Chief Ron Fleming, but in fact run by "the Mayor's high school football friend, Police Officer Loronzo Jones," the mediation summary alleges.
The "de facto" second-in-command was Jones' friend, Officer Michael Martin, the summary claims.
"These two police officers, though outranked by Deputy Chief Ron Fleming, an EPU lieutenant, and by several EPU sergeants, were given virtually carte blanche by the Mayor to run the affairs of the EPU because of Jones' friendship with the Mayor," the summary alleges. "With no supervisory rank, no supervisory training and no supervisory experience, Jones and Martin ran the EPU in a haphazard fashion which other more experienced EPU officers realized made the Unit highly unprofessional and at times jeopardized the safety of the first family."
It is also alleged that, "in addition to being high school friends, Jones and Martin earned the Mayor's confidence in other ways. The Mayor apparently made a regular practice of being unfaithful to his wife with his Chief of Staff Christine Beatty and other women. While Jones and Martin facilitated the Mayor's playboy lifestyle … other members of the EPU who took their oath 'to protect and to serve' seriously were uncomfortable being made to facilitating (sic) the Mayor's cheating on the first lady."
Nelthrope was one of those. Harris testified to being told by Martin that concerns over the possibility that Nelthrope might reveal the mayor's philandering resulted in Nelthrope's assignment to keep watch at the Manoogian Mansion so he "wouldn't go out with the Mayor anymore," according to the mediation summary.
In February 2003, Nelthrope was transferred out of EPU completely and assigned to the 7th Precinct.
"Police Officer Loronzo Jones testified that he was told prior to Nelthrope being transferred out of the EPU that Nelthrope was in fact reporting to the 'feds' on the Manoogian party and other wrongdoings on the EPU," according to the mediation summary.
Jones wasn't the only one privy to that information.
"Police Officer Michael Martin … testified that at least three different people told him that Nelthrope was reporting unreported car accidents and other allegations about the EPU to the FBI," according to the mediation summary. "…Martin telephoned Nelthrope at home to ask him about the matter but Nelthrope denied that it was him…"
On April 26, 2003, Nelthrope met with two investigators from internal affairs and provided information concerning EPU and the alleged Manoogian Mansion party.
Among other things, he alleged that officers Jones and Martin were involved in separate traffic accidents while driving city-owned vehicles, and that the accidents were covered up.
Nelthrope also alleged that Jones and Martin were fraudulently collecting 50 to 60 hours of overtime per two-week pay period.
Perhaps the most explosive allegation, however, involved Nelthrope's reporting of a rumor that in 2002, while the Manoogian Mansion was being renovated for the new first family, there was a party there that featured strippers, and that the mayor's wife, Carlita Kilpatrick, unexpectedly showed up at the mansion and attacked one of the dancers, sending her to the hospital to be treated for injuries. Nelthrope claimed no firsthand knowledge of the party, but said he heard about it the day after it occurred.
Brown, as head of the Police Department's internal affairs unit, on April 30, prepared a report detailing Nelthrope's allegations. Included in that report is a claim by Nelthrope that he had provided the same information to the FBI. Brown reported that the FBI's Detroit office was contacted by internal affairs and was told Nelthrope had not been in contact.
Before Brown delivered that report, then-Police Chief Jerry Oliver was contacted by Beatty, the mayor's chief of staff, who had questions about the Nelthrope investigation, according to the mediation summary. Oliver testified that he asked Brown on May 5 to prepare a bullet-point summary of what he had learned. Brown did so, but did not include information regarding allegations of the Manoogian party.
"I did not mention the Manoogian Party allegation in the bullet point for Ms. Beatty because it was my understanding that Ms. Beatty had assumed responsibility for the EPU and was interested in investigations about them so that she could better oversee that unit. The allegations about the Manoogian did not involve the EPU and primarily involved alleged offense by non police employees of the City that is, the Mayor and Mrs. Kilpatrick," Brown explained in a sworn affidavit.
Oliver testified about a meeting he had with Beatty at Cobo Hall on May 6, when he gave Beatty the two-page memo that listed allegations of overtime abuse, accident cover-ups and drinking on the job by Jones and Martin. When asked by Beatty about the Manoogian investigation, Oliver said there was no "official" investigation into those rumors, according to the mediation summary.
During his deposition, Oliver was asked if Beatty showed interest in the allegations of Jones and Martin being involved in unreported car accidents.
"She did not raise that issue with me," Oliver testified. "… she simply asked me about our investigation about the Manoogian party and the rumors that were floating around, and there were many."
Oliver's testimony contradicts assertions made by Beatty that she had no knowledge of such rumors at that point.
During her deposition, Beatty denied having any knowledge "that a member of the EPU had gone to the Internal Affairs to report wrongdoing on the Mayor's staff," according to the mediation summary. She also maintained that she had no idea that Brown was investigating the Manoogian party. Likewise, she denied asking Oliver to provide her with a report regarding the status of any investigations into EPU activity.
In their mediation summary, the plaintiffs argue that, given that Jones and Martin knew Nelthrope was talking to investigators, and the close ties the two cops had with the administration, "it is inconceivable that Jones and Martin did not tell Beatty and the Mayor of Nelthrope's allegations long before Beatty met with Oliver on May 6th."
"Beatty is not being truthful," asserts the mediation summary.
On May 9, following Beatty's recommendation, Brown was terminated from his position. Two days prior to that, in a highly unusual move, Beatty had ordered a staff member to copy files in computers used by Brown and two other members of the internal affairs unit, and then to block the officers' access to those computers, according to the mediation summary.
Why did Beatty urge Kilpatrick to terminate Brown?
Beatty testified that, one day after receiving the two-page memo from Oliver, which came as a surprise "out of the blue" without having been requested, she coincidentally received an anonymous memo contradicting information in the report. The confidential memo, which she said was one paragraph long, contained no specific details, but did allege that Brown was conducting an "unauthorized" investigation. The nature of that investigation was not disclosed. Beatty claims she shredded the anonymous message (without showing it to Kilpatrick) after reading it.
According to the mediation summary, Beatty testified that "she had no idea who had authored the anonymous letter and did nothing to determine whether it was credible." Nonetheless, "based on the anonymous letter, she determined that Brown should be terminated." Also, "Beatty testified that she came to this conclusion without examining Brown's personnel file or reviewing his record of twenty-six years or discussing the allegations with the Chief."
(The Kilpatrick administration claims Brown was never fired, merely removed from his deputy chief position and returned to the rank of lieutenant, and that he could have continued serving on the force had he chosen to do so. Brown says he was fired.)
When giving his deposition on Sept. 29, 2003, Oliver, who was then still chief, contended that the Kilpatrick administration never offered an explanation justifying Brown's removal.
During his deposition, however, Oliver testified that, after seeing Brown's original five-page memo that discussed all of Nelthrope's allegations, he concluded that Brown was removed because of concerns that he was looking into the Manoogian party rumors.
Oliver reportedly voiced his concerns to other members of internal affairs immediately following Brown's removal.
One internal affairs officer, Commander Donald Parshall, testified: "The Chief was saying … you guys are investigating the Mayor of Detroit, and something to that effect 'that's the dumbest shit I ever heard of.' And I remember that, because I hadn't heard the Chief use profanity before."
Asked during his deposition whether Oliver thought Brown's termination was related to the Nelthrope investigation, Officer Steve Dolunt testified: "He [Oliver] didn't say that. I don't think he said that specifically. We were told that we weren't to investigate the Mayor and that an amoeba had more sense than to investigate the Mayor and that apparently we had less sense than an amoeba and it went downhill from there. Oh. We were told not to investigate it anymore."
The mediation summary alleges that Brown's removal set back the city's efforts to reform the Police Department.
"At the time of Brown's appointment [to head Internal Affairs], the city was negotiating with the United States Department of Justice concerning the changes that would be required in the Detroit Police Department to meet the terms of an anticipated consent decree," the summary explains. "One of the problems the Department of Justice had and still has with the Detroit Police Department is that complaints concerning officers were sometimes not properly investigated and sometimes swept under the rug."
The Justice Department wanted policies put in place that would ensure "full, thorough and complete investigations."
With an exemplary record and a reputation for integrity, asserts the summary, Brown was put in charge of internal affairs to help ensure that that goal was achieved. Just prior to being dismissed, Brown was given a bonus for his job performance, according to the summary.
Brown's dismissal and the transfer of his top executives out of internal affairs "effectively put an end to the reform promised by Kilpatrick in his election campaign," the summary alleges. "These very competent police executives have been replaced by people who were chosen not so much on their abilities to get the job done, but primarily on their loyalty to Christine Beatty and the Mayor."
One week after Brown's removal, Bob Berg, a consultant who advised Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign and then contracted with the new administration to provide media services, leaked the bullet-point memo to the press, even though it was stamped confidential and identified Nelthrope as the source of the allegations it contained.
Berg was given the memo by Beatty, according to the mediation summary. Its release was discussed in a meeting attended by Beatty, Berg, Jamaine Dickens (then spokesman for the mayor), Derrick Miller (the administration's chief executive officer) and possibly Chief Corporation Counsel Ruth Carter, according to the summary.
On May 14, Nelthrope arrived home to find reporters on his sidewalk holding the confidential internal affairs memo.
'Clear my name'
"Nelthrope had not seen the memo before and was horrified to see his name in it," according to the mediation summary. "Nelthrope knew how volatile and dangerous Jones and Martin were. He knew that both men had extensive disciplinary records. He knew that Martin had been involved in several off-duty shootings and had been convicted criminally for one of them. Nelthrope knew that Martin had friends who were narcotics dealers and that both Martin and Jones knew many street people who would be only too happy to ingratiate themselves with Martin or Jones by seeing to it that Nelthrope or a member of his family paid a price for disrupting Martin and Jones' prestigious, cushy, high-paying jobs with the EPU."
Nelthrope contends that stress created by the disclosure made it impossible to work. He is currently out on what Stefani described as a "job-related disability."
Nelthrope feared retaliation because his name was revealed.
"It effectively painted a target on his back for any thug friend of Martin's, Jones' or the Mayor's or for others who might view his reporting as snitching," the mediation summary states.
If it goes to a jury, the whistleblower lawsuit brought by Brown and Nelthrope will succeed or fail based on the jury's evaluation of the foundation upon which their case has been built. The crux of their case is summed up in the mediation summary:
"The Mayor and Beatty were concerned that information about the Mayor's philandering would come to light as the result of Nelthrope's allegations, especially if Brown's investigation of those allegations involved, as it most certainly would, interviews of other former EPU members."
In a recent interview with Metro Times, Brown said he's pursuing this case for two reasons. One is to recover financially from the blow of losing his job as a deputy chief. The other motivation is to restore the reputation built up over the course of 25 years with the department.
"I'm not out to get the mayor," he says. "I'm out to clear my name."
"My reputation," he adds, "is all I have."
Brown, who says he was "devastated" by his firing, also hopes the suit will prompt further investigation into the Kilpatrick administration.
"There has been a clear pattern of retaliation against people doing something this administration doesn't want done," Brown says.
To counteract the chilling effect this has had on others who have information regarding the Kilpatrick administration but are afraid to come forward, Brown says the federal government has to become involved.
"There needs to be a federal grand jury," he says. "That's where this case will unravel."Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]