Detroit, which has seen its share of scandals involving elected officials, is undergoing yet another one.
The Detroit City Council president has not reported to work for weeks and the city’s emergency financial manager has threatened to stop his salary from being paid. The council president, Charles Pugh, is also being accused by the mother of a 17-year-old high school student of having an inappropriate relationship with her son.
Pugh, who is one of Detroit’s most visible and popular political figures, has not been seen in the Council for weeks and his absence increasingly became a topic of discussion among his fellow council members and others. He has suspended his Facebook and Twitter accounts and his whereabouts are a mystery.
However, the council president did issue a memo saying that he would be on a medical leave for up to four weeks. The memo did not disclose the nature of the medical issue.
Kevyn Orr, the city’s emergency financial manager, has stated that he has asked his staff to prepare an order to suspend payments of Pugh’s salary, since the council president has failed to report to work this week. Orr had earlier stated that he would take that action if Pugh didn’t show up for work by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
It is an example of the kind of wide-ranging control that Orr wields in dealing with the finances of Detroit. A Washington-based corporate lawyer with expertise in bankruptcy, Orr was appointed by Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to take control of the city’s fiscal matters.
For Pugh, it is an embarrassing chapter in what has been a notable career. The 41-year-old council president has been in office since 2009, when he won the most votes of any council candidate. Before that, he had a career as a television journalist in Detroit, working as the weekend anchor at one of the major stations. He is the first openly gay elected official in Detroit.
Pugh had considered running for mayor in this year’s election in Detroit but announced earlier this year that he would not be a candidate.
Ivan Land, a lawyer for the parents of the high school student, said he plans to file a lawsuit Monday against Pugh for what he called an inappropriate relationship between the council president and the then-17-year-old. The teenager was a participant in a mentorship program run by Pugh at the Douglass Academy for Young Men, a Detroit public school.
“He is accused of removing the young man from the school during school hours without parental consent,” said Land, in an interview with BET.com. “There are other things that happened, but I can’t disclose them at this point.”
The city is still reeling from the conviction in March of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, on 24 counts of charged ranging from fraud to corruption.
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(Photo: REBECCA COOK/LANDOV)