In almost any city but Detroit, council candidate Bernard Parker would already be disqualified and removed from the August primary ballot. He’s clearly not an eligible contender.
But Detroit seems to have a greater tolerance for candidates who think they are exempt from or thumb their nose at the law.
When Parker decided to run for office he signed an Affidavit of Identity and Receipt of Filing. He swore on April 30, 2013 that: “At this date, all statements, reports, late filing fees and fines due from me or any Candidate Committee organized to support my election to office under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, PA 388 of 1976, have been filed or paid.”
He further acknowledged that, “making a false statement in this affidavit is perjury – a felony punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both.”
Parker knew at the time he signed this official declaration that he was in violation of the law; that he was ineligible to run for a spot on the city council. Public documents prove it.
Twice this year, Parker was notified by certified mail that he was in violation of the Campaign Finance Act. On February 6, 2013, two months before he signed the affidavit, Parker received an eight page letter detailing the numerous errors and omissions in his campaign reports. The letter explicitly advised him that failure to resolve these issues would generate a fee of $25.00 per day up to the maximum fee of $500. Twice he ignored the notices and warning.
The certified letter, which is standard practice, makes it difficult for him to claim ignorance. But this is not the first time he’s been a candidate or was cited for violating the campaign finance law.
In fact, he has a reputation for being a wily operative with political connections that date back to the Coleman Young era. Prior to his retirement, he was one the longest serving Wayne County elected officials.
Operation Get Down, an organization he ran for decades on Detroit’s eastside, received millions in public funds while he was in office under the pretense of helping the disadvantaged. Anyone visiting that area today – a virtual wasteland –would have to conclude that his ravenous feeding at the public trough turned out to be a bad investment.
Detroiters should not take lightly Parker’s attempt to ignore or subvert the law. His defiance is indefensible. It also raises questions about whether he can exercise the independent judgment necessary for any self-respecting council member to serve as an effective public servant. Worse, it shows a new level of contempt for the people he wants to serve.
So what happens now?
It will take a rare display of political responsibility for the Detroit City Clerk, as guardian of the public trust, to declare Parker ineligible. Someone will have to file a complaint to start the process of determining there has been a breach of the electoral process. Failure of the clerk to respond, however, may confirm the suspicion that a credibility crisis exists in that office.
If Parker stays on the ballot, it will be up to voters to exercise their civic obligation to deal with this abnormality. Only informed scrutiny and a firm rebuff will cause future candidates to yield to the highest standards of conduct. But again, neither scrutiny nor rebuff is common inDetroit.
This is a city in which the government at all levels has become a laughing stock. But instead of laughing, Detroit voters should demand that Bernard Parker is booted from — instead of added to — the August primary ballot.