Kwame Kilpatrick’s Collateral Damage

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Deecember 20, 2010; Source: Livingston Daily | Already sitting behind bars, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick now faces an avalanche of corruption charges that if true make it seem like he was running one of the biggest municipal pay-to-play rackets in the nation. We covered Kilpatrick’s shenanigans several times at NPQ here, here, here, and here for their nonprofit implications and impacts.

Now this much bigger federal corruption probe has not surprisingly touched on a number of nonprofits that appeared to have been parties to the corrupt schemes. According to this Gannett story, the tax exempt organizations involved include: the Chaldean Catholic Church from which a developer who was also a church leader allegedly “engineered $50,000 in bribes” to mayoral aides to arrange for a $3.5 million sale of city-owned property to the church; a nonprofit called Using Nonviolence to Influence Total Education (UNITE); and the mayor’s nonprofit civic fund and inaugural committee through which a fundraiser allegedly gave Kilpartrick $286,000 “in kickbacks from her [fundraising] commission.”

More revelations are coming. It probably isn’t much of a stretch to opine that the corruption investigation and indictments, reportedly one of the biggest ever in the Motor City, have uncovered a cesspool that has sullied the reputation of the nonprofit sector. The collateral damage to the many stalwart, excellent nonprofits in Detroit have to be addressed and remedied.

Sending a few people to jail—or extending the terms of those already behind bars—isn’t enough. It’s time for the attorney general and the nonprofit sector to do some proactive weeding in the nonprofit garden, otherwise the good work of Detroit foundations and nonprofits gets unnecessarily harmed.—Rick Cohen