The Kilpatrick Indictments

Another week, another mea culpa from a high-profile black politician. What in the world is going on? Last week, the barely inaugurated governor of New York admitted that he had not one but several extramarital affairs with a variety of women. Never mind that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) was forced to resign from office over a sex scandal — I only wish that Gov. Peterson had decided to reveal his own related news before rather than following his inauguration.

Why? Because it brings up questions of how elected officials go about protecting and defending the trust that the public has placed in them as individuals to represent their interests. Which leads us to the immediate case with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) of Detroit. How in the world did he find himself in this mess?

I refuse to speculate on his motives, the state of his relationship with his wife and family. I choose only to focus on the betrayal of the public’s trust — a trust that will not be bridged until the mayor resigns or is removed from office. He claims that he did not retaliate against whistleblowers who disclosed his extramarital affair. What is at issue is whether the City of Detroit had to spend millions of dollars (that could have gone to education, housing or other needs that Detroit cannot provide for) to settle a lawsuit brought by those the mayor sought to silence.

Moreover, the prosecutor aptly noted this morning that their office cannot convince citizens of Detroit to come before the court and tell the truth in open session — often at great peril to their own personal safety — if others are held above the law or a different standard when truth telling is involved. I haven’t reviewed the court filings yet, but obstruction of justice and perjury are serious crimes that could land the Mayor in jail for up to 15 years.

We are all held innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and I trust the mayor will avail himself of every opportunity to present evidence that could exonerate him. What troubles me is that both Gov. Paterson and Mayor Kilpatrick have sought to suggest that the revelations about their personal behavior is either dredged up for political purposes or disclosed to prevent such knowledge from being used against them at some future date. What they both fail to recognize is that the public trust is a sacred bond between citizens and the official who has sworn an oath to act in their best interests. When public officials abuse this trust, shade the truth and engage in risky behavior, they have only the image in the mirror to blame.