DETROIT (AP) – Documents related to a whistle-blower lawsuit that led to a text-messaging sex scandal involving the mayor must be released to the public, a judge ruled yesterday.
The city said it would appeal the ruling by Friday, the deadline set by Wayne County Circuit Judge Robert Colombo Jr.
The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News are suing the city to determine whether there was a secret settlement in the whistle-blower lawsuit, in which a jury ruled against the city. The case eventually cost the city more than $8.5 million.
Colombo yesterday indicated that indeed there was a secret settlement, pointing to certain documents that he said wouldn’t have been negotiated if there hadn’t been a settlement.
“The public should be very happy with what happened today,” Detroit News attorney James Stewart said after yesterday’s hearing. “This information is going to come out. I think the notion the public hasn’t found this out before will dismay people.”
“They’re all smoking guns,” Free Press attorney Herschel Fink said of the documents.
The whistle-blower lawsuit was filed by two police officers who alleged they were fired for investigating claims that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.
After a jury awarded damages to the officers in September, Kilpatrick promised to appeal but never did.
A month later, the city made the multimillion-dollar payout.
The mayor’s top legal adviser, Sharon McPhail, said Colombo’s order went too far.
“The documents in question were never introduced into evidence during the lawsuit or trial, were never part of the evidence the jury considered during the trial and many of the documents have never been in the city’s possession,” McPhail said in a statement.
Colombo stayed his order to release the documents pending the outcome of the city’s appeal.
In a related action, the City Council voted yesterday to authorize an audit of Kilpatrick’s office and agencies including the law department, which handled the city’s defense of the whistle-blower lawsuit.
“We’re basically looking at legal expenses, settlement judgments, as well as other financial transactions, so it’s wide-ranging,” said Councilman Kwame Kenyatta.
Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel cast the lone ‘no’ vote on the resolution to authorize the audit, saying she believed it exceeded the council’s authority.
During testimony in the trial, Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, denied having an affair during 2002-03 and conspiring to have one of the officers fired.