Takin’ a free ride

As best I can tell from the latest, and worst-timed, of Kwame’s City Hall scandals, he wanted to put his wife, Carlita, in as fine a pimped-out ride as big-money players in the dope business, and try to make taxpayers pick up the inflated cost of it. Or he didn’t.

It’s possible that police officials leased the ride to run undercover operations in this same fine ride, or not. If they did, the city’s now in the position of paying $25,000 for a 1-year lease on the mean machine, and not being able to use it for its intended purpose. One of many questions now seems to be just where this tricked-out road warrior machine is, and what are weary, ill-used taxpayers getting for the outlandish lease?

Channel 7 News attack-dog Steve Wilson broke the story of “Carlita’s car” last week. He obtained, and posted on the Channel 7 Web site, a copy of a Nov. 30, 2004 City of Detroit purchase order for a new 2005 Lincoln Navigator. The terms were simple: It was a one-year, $24,995 “mayor’s lease.” The person responsible for making “prompt payment” on the lease is identified only as Carla Wilson with a phone number belonging to the Detroit Police Department. I couldn’t reach her for comment or even to ask who she is. After several calls to the mayor’s office and the cop shop, where my questions were greeted almost uniformly with “I don’t know,” I finally learned that Wilson is the No. 2 civilian in the Police Department’s Fiscal Operations section. Shouldn’t that have been a simple answer to a simple question?

So should the answer to any inquiry about a luxury ride paid for by taxpayers, hundreds of whom are about to lose their jobs because of the city’s appalling fiscal crisis. But, of course, the question is wrapped in the same foul murk as so many other issues that have arisen around the boy mayor. (Those who are inclined to jump on that phrase as some kind of racial aspersion, in Detroit’s time-honored tradition of using race-baiting to divert attention from the real issues, can forget it. Kwame’s barely more than a kid, and the way he’s handling his office just continues to cement his image as an immature, high-living mooch.)

James Tate, a civilian deputy chief who does Kwame’s talking when it comes to the cop house, has been all over the map in handling the question. Depending on who’s asking the question, Tate so far has said the Navigator isn’t used by Chief Ella Bully-Cummings, although that was the Ford dealer’s understanding. He also says Carlita Kilpatrick has “never set foot in a Lincoln Navigator” and that this one was only to be used for cop ops. And he says the department does have a Navigator for undercover work, but it’s not this one. And he’s told Wilson that he’s never seen the lease in question, but “if this vehicle was leased, and again I can’t discuss if it is or not because of a compromise of their safety, but if it was, this was being used for exactly their protection to drive the mayor around.”

Combine both print and broadcast reports — including juicy footage of a couple of cops straight-arming Wilson away from the mayor as the newsman does his best to imitate a classic Dennis Rodman foul-flop — and you have a clear picture only of a mayor and his minions trying desperately to get their story straight, but having no good, honest explanation to land on.


Quick housekeeping note: We’re happy this week to unveil two new elements in your Metro Times — a distinct section devoted to culture, including newly minted culture editor Sarah Klein’s “Pop Tart” column; and a high-quality crossword puzzle that you’ll only find here, every week.

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