Controversial Pick for Detroit Retirement System GC
The Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System has hired an interim general counsel, but its choice of a lawyer caught up in a bribery scandalthough not chargedis causing some to question the decision.
On Thursday, the systems board voted to hire Joseph Turner of the Clark Hill law firm in Detroit as its new GC, according to the Detroit News. Turner is a public pension lawyer at the firm.
Turner replaces former general counsel Ronald Zajac, who was fired after being indicted, along with a pension board member, in March for bribery and accused kickbacks to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the city treasurer. Board member Paul Stewart resigned after being indicted.
Kilpatrick, the ex-mayor, was convicted in March of racketeering, extortion, tax evasion, and wire fraud. He is awaiting sentencing.
Turner has admitted that he was Attorney B cited in the federal indictment in March. The document alleges that Attorney B gave money to city officials before he received a pay increase, according to Fox News channel WJBK in Detroit.
But Turner, who didnt immediately return messages seeking comment, has not been charged. He previously has denied any wrongdoing.
I have been called over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and I have provided testimony to them, truthful testimony," he told WJBK. "I have never been informed that I was a target. If I were a target, I could not remain here in this capacity," he added.
Board member George Orzech objected to hiring Turner. He told the Detroit News that the vote should have waited for the federal investigation to conclude.
They wont even give a chance for the Department of Justice to finish up, he told the newspaper after the vote. Theyve indicted [people], some have pleaded guilty.
Besides the tinge of scandal, Turner and the retirement board face other problems.
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has announced he intends to cut retiree benefits or seize control of the $5.1 billion retirement system. The city also is contemplating bankruptcy.
The News reported that the retirement system has put $5 million in escrow with Clark Hill to hire the law firm to fight Orrs move, if necessary.