Karen Dumas is the ex-chief of communications and external affairs for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing who apparently jumped before she was pushed out the door of City Hall. Her resignation, however, left a void in the beleaguered administration. Mayor Bing should bring her back.
You might recall that she resigned following a controversial lawsuit filed by a disgruntled employee who had a number of run-ins with Dumas. It bears noting that the aggrieved individual was an “at-will appointee” who served at the “pleasure of the mayor.” As such, she could be fired for cause – or for no reason at all.
The only recourse for “at-will” personnel is to allege that their termination was improper. Herein, the “whistleblower’s” lawsuit; a charge by the employee that she was let go because she had knowledge of a dishonest or illegal activity the administration wanted to conceal. The employee will have her day in court.
Since no evidence has surfaced that Dumas committed any crime or was engaged in illegal or unethical conduct, she is a victim of a rush to judgment. Before the long list of allegations by the fired employee was adjudicated, the mayor felt the need to remove the cloud of suspicion that Dumas abused her authority. He buckled under media pressure to accept/force Dumas’ resignation.
Dumas was also blamed for a slew of top-level aides leaving the administration over the past couple of years. That may be true. Until the right mix is found, an infusion of new blood is pretty much routine in any major governmental organization. What we do know is that those that “departed” were not sent packing by Dumas alone. She needed the consent of the mayor.
Every administration needs a “heavy” to wield the ax when necessary. Dumas fearlessly assumed the role to resolve the mismatch between Bing appointees and seemingly intractable problems of the city. She came off as competent and loyal in an administration void of strong managers and focused direction.
A man in her position would have never been accused of creating a “hostile work environment.” He would be seen as a tough, “hard-nose” administrator.
Judging by the continuing disarray within the Bing administration whoever replaced Dumas has failed make the government run smarter. In many ways, the city has returned to mediocrity characterized by ongoing scandals, malfeasance and gross mismanagement.
Funds continue to be misappropriated. The Water and Sewerage Department is on the verge of being taken over by the federal court. Labor problems tug at the city’s service delivery systems. The government is a laughing stock that doesn’t command broad respect.
Buses that don’t run on time leave people stranded. Neighborhoods go dark at night putting residents in jeopardy. Outdated and nonfunctioning fire fighting equipment cause defenseless residents to perish. Neighborhoods are unsafe as unchecked crime and violence proliferates.
If Mayor Bing has any lingering thoughts about being re-elected, he must look in the mirror and polish the tarnished image of his administration. It starts with bringing Dumas back to finish the job of removing the dead weight and getting the administration on a truer course. Along with the authority, she should be given the title.
As deputy mayor, Dumas could help send the message that the Bing administration is ready to demand a higher standard of accountability from a less than effective team.
Let’s not forget that Mayor Bing and his longtime buddy Kirk Lewis allegedly had a falling out. Lewis’ attempt to become emergency financial manager for the Detroit school district subsequently fell though. That relationship was somehow magically repaired and Lewis was rehired as Bing’s chief of staff.
Karen Dumas knows far more about the functions of government and what constitutes sound pubic policy. She’s the one who should be back on the job.