Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lawyers investigated in Detroit $8.4-million whistle-blower lawsuit settlement secret agreement

City attorney cleared of wrongdoing in Free Press records request
October 28, 2008

City of Detroit lawyer Ellen Ha won’t face professional misconduct charges for her handling of Free Press’s public records requests that revealed the existence of a secret side agreement to last year’s $8.4-million settlement of a police whistle-blower lawsuit and eventually brought down Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

“The Attorney Grievance Commission determined that the evidence reviewed did not warrant further action by the commission,” it said in a one-page letter dated Monday to Ha. She received the letter today.

...Ha told the Free Press and a Wayne County judge after last year’s $8.4-million whistle-blower lawsuit settlement that she was unaware of any secret agreement. But documents the judge later released in a Free Press freedom of information lawsuit showed the mayor’s lawyers had created a secret side agreement to conceal the existence of text messages showing that Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, had lied at the whistle-blower trial.

Ha later testified at Kilpatrick’s removal hearing that she had been kept in the dark about the confidential agreement and said such agreements are improper because the public is entitled to know the details of settlements involving public funds.

Deputy State Treasurer Valdemar Washington, then a Flint lawyer who was called in to help facilitate a settlement of the whistle-blower suit, was cleared in the grievance commission investigation in September.

The commission is investigating other lawyers involved in the secret settlement and its aftermath. They are Kilpatrick, who was a lawyer until he surrendered his law license when he pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges; Samuel McCargo, who represented Kilpatrick in the whistle-blower suit; Assistant City Attorney Valerie Colbert-Osamuede, who represented the city; John Johnson, then-head of the Law Department; Wilson Colepand II of Detroit, a private lawyer who represented the city; William Mitchell III of Southfield, who went to the city’s text messaging provider to find out why the messages hadn’t been destroyed; and Michael Stefani and law partner Frank Rivers, of Royal Oak, who represented the cops.

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