An investigation into Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has some questioning the impartiality of Inspector General (IG) Ellen Ha. The investigation in Mayor Duggan is looking into the appearance of preferential treatment of a nonprofit prenatal program called “Make Your Date.” IG Ha’s previous employment in the city’s law department—which “handles legal business for the mayor, city council and various city departments”—raises concerns of bias.
With the tumult regarding former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick fresh in the memory of Detroit, many see any conflict of interest as hazardous for the city.
Tom Ivacko, associate director for the Ford School's Center on the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), appearing in Violet Iknomova’s April 11, 2019 story for Deadline Detorit” weighed in on the controversy now surrounding IG Ha. “It’s probably a legitimate concern about whether the investigation can be done in an unbiased manner,” Ivacko said, “but it certainly doesn’t mean that she can’t do an unbiased investigation.”
While cognizant of the concern, Ivacko believes that questions of impartiality may compel IG Ha to lead a more transparent investigation so to alleviate some of the anxiousness. Among potential solutions to “manage the possible conflict through additional transparency,” Ivacko suggests, is “sharing confidential files with the public.”
While IG Ha’s previous employment with the city legal department (for Coleman Young and Dennis Archer) raise some red flags, others see her experience as beneficial for the city. The city council that unanimously appointed Ha expressed their support; even Mayor Duggan has affirmed IG Ha’s stewardship of the investigation.
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Tom joined CLOSUP at its founding in the fall of 2001 and serves as associate director of the Center. He also oversees the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) program and has been the lead or co-author on more than 50 MPPS publications covering a wide range of state and local government policy topics.More news from the Ford School