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What the ho?



Ever since the dismissal of misdemeanor charges against Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, the former co-chair of the Michigan Democratic Party arrested last year near his Detroit home for allegedly picking up a prostitute, News Hits has wondered exactly who was responsible for the snafu that allowed him to walk without a trial.

After some digging we’ve found the answer.

Butch — who maintained that he was motivated by chivalry rather than lust when he gave the ho a ride — should be sending a big bouquet of thank-you roses to Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration. Unfortunately, unless corrected, the foul-up is going to cost cash-strapped Detroit an estimated half-million dollars per year.

Here’s the story: Last August, Wayne County sheriff’s deputies, as the result of a deal struck between Kilpatrick and Sheriff Warren Evans, began making arrests for Detroit ordinance violations, with a concentration on overweight trucks, prostitution and corner drug dealers. Before that, deputies working in the city were operating under the authority of state law, with the state also getting the fines. But, because of the so-called Intergovernmental Agreement, deputies could enforce city ordinance violations. Fines would be split: 45 percent to Detroit, 45 percent to Wayne County, and 10 percent to 36th District Court. Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, in a letter recommending the deal to Wayne County Commission Chair Jewel Ware, estimated that the county would net $500,000 a year under the agreement.

But, as Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards stated in his decision, Hollowell’s arrest wasn’t kosher because the agreement was never properly executed. At the time, Edwards said the deal apparently hadn’t received the required approval from either the county’s Board of Commissioners or the City Council. No one ever bothered to nail down, however, exactly where things went wrong.

So, News Hits leaped into the breach. What we found was that the only part of the process that didn’t get completed was the City Council’s OK, and the reason was that Kilpatrick’s folk never bothered to forward the agreement to councilmembers for approval.

Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams, who wasn’t yet aboard the Good Ship Kilpatrick when it ran aground on this, tells the Hits that his boss’s administration didn’t realize that council had to ink the deal. It’s an odd oversight, considering that the agreement itself states — in Paragraph 7, to be exact — that council approval is needed for it to be valid.

Furthermore, as Edwards noted, both state law and the city charter are clear: City Council must approve such agreements.

Adams says he hasn’t yet seen the judge’s decision, but when he does he’ll decide whether to send the agreement to the council. News Hits volunteered to fax him the documents.

City Council President Maryann Mahaffey thinks there’s more to it than a simple oversight on the part of the Kilpatrick administration. She says Kilpatrick has tried several times, as with the Detroit-Wayne County Health Authority, to concentrate power in the mayor’s office. Adams denies this. Further, Mahaffey says the administration was likely trying to avoid the council’s inevitable questions, such as, why aren’t we making these arrests ourselves?

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Hollowell decision, the sheriff’s office went back to arresting on state law — meaning the city and county don’t get the cash. And luckily for our local governments, no sex, drug and traffic offenders or those alleged to be — except, of course, Hollowell — have challenged their arrest by the deputies, Adams says.

“What’s done is done. Once you pay a fine and don’t contest or appeal within the applicable statute, it’s a binding decision,” says Adams, an attorney.

For her part, Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings isn’t showing much interest in the whole affair.

“I’m not worried about it,” she says, adding that she doesn’t know much about the deal or what the sheriff’s deputies do in Detroit. “They do their own thing,” she says.

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