by | Feb 15, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

In this terrible economy, it’s good to know one man was able to find work.

Of course, the fact that Kwame Kilpatrick got the job a week after he left jail, in a field in which he has no experience, at a six-figure wage, doesn’t make people happy.

And the fact that his new employer, Compuware, laid off 250 people the same week it hired him, doesn’t make people happy.

And the fact that Kilpatrick, Detroit’s former mayor, has been proven a liar, cost his city millions of dollars, was convicted of felony perjury, and has a sense of entitlement that would shame Cleopatra, doesn’t make people happy.

And let’s be clear – it shouldn’t. This guy does not deserve “a break.” This guy does not deserve the front of the line. This guy is lucky he did only 99 days behind bars, he owes this city $1 million, and at the very least, he should endure the same cold splash that tens of thousands of his former constituents are enduring these days – unemployed and doing without. A case for charisma?

What exactly is Kilpatrick doing without? He will live in a posh city near Dallas and was re-employed a blazing 7 days out of jail. He was flown to his new home in a private jet, paid for by his mother, who last I looked was also a public servant. Does anybody in that family live in the real world?

Because in the real world, others don’t take the fall for you. In the real world, you’re not entitled to something because of your last name. In the real world, you can’t just say “I did my time” and be right back in business. Plenty of people do their time. Go ask them how easy it is to get a job once they’ve got a conviction on their record.

Compuware Chief Executive Officer Peter Karmanos defended the hiring on a WJR-AM (760) show this past week, saying, “Look, we hired a very, very talented person with lots of charisma that has made some serious mistakes in judgment.”

Serious mistakes in judgment? That’s when somebody drives after drinking. Kilpatrick habitually lied, bullied and manipulated his way around a public office for years, then used taxpayer money to buy silence when he got caught.

How exactly does that sit well in a boardroom? When Kilpatrick makes a business promise, does the customer pull out his text messages to Christine Beatty, who sits in jail today, and say, “Yeah, but you made her promises, too.”

When Kilpatrick says he’ll be a great partner, does the customer say, “But you won’t try to get my people fired to cover your mistakes, will you?”

Karmanos said Kilpatrick would be “calling on governors and state legislators, and even municipal governments. … I can’t think of a better person to do it.”

Really? There’s not a better person anywhere? How about someone with a clean record from the ranks of the unemployed? Do governors and legislators really want to be seen shaking hands with an ex-mayor who resigned in scandal and went to jail? That says very little about governors and legislators, or very little about Compuware’s judgment. What’s best for business?

Karmanos has done a lot for Detroit, and he did say he warned the former mayor that any more screw-ups or bad headlines and he’s out. So the CEO gets that it’s a risk. What he doesn’t get is that it wasn’t worth taking – because how it looks matters.

The fact that he opened a headquarters in Detroit and did very well while Kilpatrick was mayor raises suspicions about his motivations – even if they’re pure. How it looks matters.

The fact that Kilpatrick is supposed to pay the city back money – but there are those who wonder whether he’ll challenge that in court – means a prominent Detroit businessman may employ a guy Detroit is suing for repayment. How it looks matters.

The fact that so many people are out of work today – so many people need jobs, healthcare, they’ve been laid off for no reason but the economy – and instead of hiring one of them, Compuware hires this slick operator, and admits he needs up to a year to learn the business, then credits his “charisma”? Come on. Charisma is Kilpatrick’s most dangerous attribute.

How it looks matters.

But apparently not enough. Karmanos, at the end of the radio interview, closed by saying, tersely, “I’m hiring Kwame Kilpatrick, our organization is, because it’s a good business decision.”

Maybe. But it’s a terrible message.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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