Nessel: No charges over Duggan's support of 'Make Your Date' program, deleted e-mails

Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 18:35:47-04

(WXYZ) — Attorney General Dana Nessel Wednesday said no charges will be filed in connection with Mayor Mike Duggan's support of a health program where staffers were caught deleting e-mails showing the city's support.

"The facts and evidence in the case simply did on substantiate criminal activity, and therefore we cannot pursue charges against individuals," Nessel said.

The 'Make Your Date' program was founded by Dr. Sonia Hassan, a Wayne State physician. Its goal was to bring down Detroit’s soaring infant mortality rates and it had the support of Mayor Duggan from the start.

But in 2018, the mayor’s nemesis, businessman Robert Carmack, hired a private investigator to follow Duggan and found him visiting Dr. Hassan after hours at her home. Carmack circulated the video, leading some to question whether Duggan’s support of the program was tied to their relationship.

Inspector General Ellen Ha looked into the city's support of the program, concluding in 2019 that Duggan gave 'Make Your Date' preferential treatment.

Still, Duggan said his office's support was appropriate and above board.

"There was no finding that anybody violated any ordinances, there was no finding that anybody violated any policies or city rules," Duggan said at the time.

But Ha also found that Duggan’s then-Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley, ordered that city e-mails about 'Make Your Date' be deleted.

"It certainly appears to be a cover-up," Ha said at the time. "I don’t know if that was her intent."

But Duggan refused to discipline Wiley or anyone else involved in deleting e-mails.

While Nessel considered a charge of destruction of public documents, she said because the deleted e-mails were later recovered, there was no case to be brought.

"When you can find those emails and you’ve posted them on your website, that doesn’t met the definition of destruction of a public document," Nessel said.

Still, Nessel did not defend the decision to delete the e-mails, saying she wouldn't necessarily consider it "ethical behavior."

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The Attorney General says her office interviewed 21 witnesses, executed four search warrants, reviewed 1,500 pages of financial record and over 1 million documents.

Nessel said her investigation showed there is "ample opportunity" to improve operations in the city of Detroit as it relates to record retention.

“I would like to note that the absence of adequate evidence to charge individuals with crimes does not absolve the parties of their ethical obligation to meet the expectations of public trust inherent to their roles as employees and officials of the City of Detroit,” said Nessel. “I believe there is ample opportunity to improve upon the operations of City government, especially with regard to transparency and accountability to the residents of Detroit.”

The Attorney General says the city needs to implement regular training in these policies to increase understanding and compliance with them by the city's staff.

Nessel says they found no evidence of bribery, embezzlement, or destruction of evidence in future proceedings.

The city provided some $350,000 in federal grants for the program and did other fundraising efforts.

Duggan's office provided the following statement about today's announcement:

As the Attorney General indicated today, the emails were recovered and have been publicly posted on the city website since 2019.

The decision to try to delete them was bad judgment, not a crime. There was nothing damaging in any of them.

The City of Detroit last year instituted a policy of automatically backing up all employee emails and retaining them for a two-year period in order to make certain this problem cannot arise again in the future.