CHICAGO -Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said yesterday she would hold a hearing next week on whether to remove indicted Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from office.
The historic move comes as political pressure mounts on Kilpatrick to step down as he awaits two criminal trials on a total of 10 felonies. As the state's only political figure with the authority to remove Kilpatrick from office, Granholm herself faced growing pressure to act, as some say the scandal is paralyzing city business.
The governor's decision comes as Kilpatrick's lawyers are reportedly in talks with prosecutors in the two cases to make a deal. The decision to hold a hearing comes a week after a Wayne County judge ruled the Detroit City Council did not have the authority to force Kilpatrick to resign.
The hearing will address whether Kilpatrick authorized the use of city funds for personal interests and whether the mayor concealed or failed to disclose to the City Council pertinent information related to an $8.4 million settlement of police whistleblower lawsuits last year.
The governor said she would not consider other felony charges the mayor faces. At the hearing, attorneys from both sides could call witnesses, and Kilpatrick's attorneys have said they plan to call more than 25 people.
Kilpatrick faces eight felony counts stemming from testimony and subsequent actions related to a police whistleblower trial in 2007. Among the accusations is that he directed city attorneys to pay $8.4 million to settle the lawsuits to keep secret damaging text messages between him and his former chief of staff Christine Beatty, who also faces trial.
Members of the City Council said they were misled into signing off on the settlement as the mayor kept that information secret. He faces two additional felony counts stemming from assault charges on a pair of law enforcement officers investigating the case.
In a legal brief filed Monday, Kilpatrick attorney Sharon McPhail said her client would be forced at a hearing to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination due to his pending criminal trials that examine the same charges. City Council attorney William Goodman disputed the claim that testimony at a civic hearing prior to a pending criminal trial violates the Fifth Amendment.
"Our only expectation for the hearing next week is that it is rooted in law and not the political pressures that have surrounded this matter," McPhail said in a statement released yesterday.
The hearing will be held Sept. 3 at 9 a.m. in Detroit.