Duggan, city of Detroit awarded 'Golden Padlock' for deleted public records


Mayor Mike Duggan. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Mayor Mike Duggan.

Congratulations, Mayor Mike Duggan and the city of Detroit. You’ve been named the most secretive public official and government in the U.S. in 2020.

Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a nonprofit journalism group, announced that Duggan and the city won the annual Golden Padlock Award, which recognizes the most secretive U.S. agency or individual every year.

Duggan and the city earned the ignoble accolade after top city officials intentionally destroyed public records last year.

In a scathing report in December 2019, the Detroit Office of the Inspector General found that Duggan’s chief of staff Alexis Wiley and two other top city officials ordered public employees to delete emails related to the nonprofit Make Your Date.

The report concluded that Wiley, a former journalist, "abused her authority" by ordering employees at the city's Office of Development and Grants (ODG) to erase emails that referenced the nonprofit. Two other city officials were “complicit” in carrying out Wiley’s orders to delete the emails, the report states.

The OIG called the scheme "egregious," "troubling," and "extremely problematic," and recommended that the three officials be "disciplined."

In August 2019, The Detroit Free Press requested records related to the nonprofit and was told it could only get them if it paid $222,667 and waited an estimated three years for legal staff to review the documents, leading to a lawsuit that remains in the courts.

“The siege mentality displayed by senior city officials in this case strains credulity,” Golden Padlock committee chair Robert Cribb said in a statement. “It is a reminder of the extraordinary lengths some dedicated civil servants and elected officials will go to protect self interest at the expense of the public interest.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel launched an investigation over the deleted emails. It's unclear whether the investigation is ongoing. Her office couldn't be immediately reached Friday for comment.

Duggan and city officials turned down IRE’s request to receive the honor or respond to the award.

“Unfortunately, it seems more and more agencies compete for this award each year through their growing efforts to suppress information,” IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix said. “Our IRE community will keep watching, reporting and calling out violations of the public trust.”

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