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High-end items for Detroit office bought with money for poor people
August 3, 2011 4:13 PM   Subscribe

The Human Services Department in Detroit awarded a $1.2 million no-bid contract to a nonprofit named Clark & Associates. The Department then used $210,000 of the money to buy high end office furniture.

Mayor Dave Bing fired two of the managers, but allowed director Shenetta Coleman to remain with the Department. Coleman was appointed by former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
posted by reenum (53 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
All freep links? Really?

...I got some NOTW stuff you might like then. Mebbe some Fark in here too.
posted by aramaic at 4:15 PM on August 3, 2011


I object to this conduct!
posted by facetious at 4:17 PM on August 3, 2011


Freep is the Detroit Free Press, a real newspaper. Not Free Republic.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:18 PM on August 3, 2011 [34 favorites]


Freep is just what people call Free Republic. The actual website is http://www.freerepublic.com/. The links, if you click on them, go to the Detroit Free Press.
posted by codacorolla at 4:18 PM on August 3, 2011


Indeed. Freep.com is not FreeRepublic.com
posted by filthy light thief at 4:19 PM on August 3, 2011


What the deuce does a Human Resource department need with TVs? Shouldn't that have set off some red flags, before the purchase was approved? Or was the appearance of two nice TVs and other high-end furniture what tipped someone off.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:21 PM on August 3, 2011


Sounds like the department was trying to get around a pesky rule that required approval on purchases over $25,000 by making a $1 million grant a $1.2 million grant if they gave the department $200k in furniture. Pretty incredible if true especially in a city like Detroit that is so fiscally hurting.
posted by AugustWest at 4:22 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


the Detroit Free Press, a real newspaper.

I submit that this is open to question, but confess to being quite imperious on the matter of newspapers.
posted by aramaic at 4:24 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


One question that comes to mind: was this is a new department, created to serve this fund? They would have needed some basic infrastructure to get going, and most of the listed items aren't unreasonable. Yes, $300 trash cans are a stupid waste, but a $489 ottoman in the waiting area is cheap as hell, if you ask me.

If they were a new department, and needed to bring people in to process them, most of the money might have been perfectly reasonable to spend.

But if they already had the infrastructure to do what needed doing, then the outrage seems appropriate.
posted by Malor at 4:28 PM on August 3, 2011


Just imagine if they have been for profit.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:29 PM on August 3, 2011


Idiots. Next time, invest the money is something that's actually lucrative, like a timeshare in Second Life or an EVE Online Titan ship.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


a $489 ottoman in the waiting area is cheap as hell, if you ask me.

Wanna buy an ottoman? I'm pretty sure I can find a great one for you at what you'll assume is a great price.

By the way, why does the waiting area of HHS need an ottoman?
posted by The World Famous at 4:32 PM on August 3, 2011


No Aerons? No designer coffee tables?

Is this luxe office furniture, or high-end for OfficeMax?
posted by zippy at 4:34 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Indeed! They should have bought the cheapest and most uncomfortable chairs and furnishings possible, to encourage these people to stop being poor and visiting HHS.
posted by absalom at 4:35 PM on August 3, 2011 [18 favorites]


Gov't offices should be forced to use IKEA as first choice. IKEA doesn't have EXACTLY what you need? Are you sure? Really? Did you look again? Oh, they DO have that? There, money saved!
posted by slater at 4:36 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


By the way, why does the waiting area of HHS need an ottoman?

To reestablish the empire!
posted by zippy at 4:36 PM on August 3, 2011 [14 favorites]


Part of me wonders how much of this money went to high-end office furniture manufacturers like Steelcase and Herman Miller in Grand Rapids, the Furniture City.

I wonder because Grand Rapids and it's corporations have long been a GOP stronghold. And part of the GOP strategy in Michigan has always been to destroy Detroit.

That would turn this from simple tragic corruption to tragic, but LOLworthy, irony.
posted by formless at 4:36 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kilpatrick was a scoundrel and the new mayor would do well to eliminate any leftover trash from his administration.
posted by Renoroc at 4:38 PM on August 3, 2011


With the amount of traffic a gov't office might see, i'd be worried that IKEA furniture wouldn't hold up. But yeah, this news is pretty outrageous.
posted by subdee at 4:46 PM on August 3, 2011


Easy snark aside, local government is traditionally as corrupt as you can get. If this is a new agency being started up or whatever, some of these things might be justifiable, but otherwise it's just old fashion arrogance, hubris and greed.
posted by absalom at 4:47 PM on August 3, 2011


i'd be worried that IKEA furniture wouldn't hold up.

if it can stand the abuse of college kids, it'll just about do for govt offices. Besides, if they spend $300+ for ottomans, they can buy spares!
posted by slater at 4:48 PM on August 3, 2011


But if they already had the infrastructure to do what needed doing, then the outrage seems appropriate.

The article says the money was for salaries, not furniture. And, file under the "this may look bad" department, the invoice (pdf) for the furniture includes, at the end (p. 56) a $7000 quote for moving existing furniture to a storage area in the building.
posted by zippy at 4:48 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and "Furniture removal: 3 days/evenings, New Furniture install: 4-5 days/evenings"
posted by zippy at 4:50 PM on August 3, 2011


Easy snark aside, local government is traditionally as corrupt as you can get.

Not in Detroit, Mr.!
posted by The World Famous at 4:50 PM on August 3, 2011


was this is a new department, created to serve this fund?

The timeline is a little unclear from the FPP, but the first Free press article is pretty straightforward.

(1) The Human Services department gives a 1.2mil grant to a non-profit.
(2) That non-profit buys some furniture using money that is supposed to be paying employees.
(3) That furniture ends up in the existing Human Services office.
Cherrywood desks, chairs and tables replaced older furniture on various floors of the Detroit Human Services Department.
Whether or not the HSD needs new furniture is beside the point. I'm pretty sure this is a gross violation of several laws dealing with government contracts and appropriations.
posted by muddgirl at 4:52 PM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


So... this isn't best of the web. Corruption in Detroit is barely news. I'm going with a resounding "meh."
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:57 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped."

-Simon Cameron
posted by clavdivs at 5:01 PM on August 3, 2011


I wonder how interested the IRS gets when a non-profit gives $200k of assets to the local government. Advocacy? Possible other non-kosher transfer of assets? It does sound like a fast way to lose non-profit status.
posted by zippy at 5:06 PM on August 3, 2011


So... this isn't best of the web. Corruption in Detroit is barely news. I'm going with a resounding "meh."
posted by Mister Fabulous

People getting fired for corruption in Detroit is and has been news of late.
posted by clavdivs at 5:06 PM on August 3, 2011


Class warfare
posted by Trurl at 5:40 PM on August 3, 2011


how about a few Escalades?
State College of Florida cancels Cadillac purchase
posted by robbyrobs at 5:44 PM on August 3, 2011


As a humble public servant working late nights at a woodgrain Formica desk acquired when the office opened in 1977, my first reaction was jealousy.
posted by *s at 5:59 PM on August 3, 2011


I've lived in Detroit all my life. The culture of "Putting One Over On The Man" is so deeply ingrained here that everything from the school district to major businesses are infested with a concept that being corrupt is somehow acceptable. Not only acceptable but good in some weird sense. I weep for my city. We have one of the world's greatest Art Institutes, a fabulous Science Center, the Motown Museum, and, we're right across the street (so to speak) from Canada. I like to think that things are looking up, but we will see.
posted by TDavis at 6:10 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Last year I attended an all-day workshop at a regional office of a federal agency. The conference room's chair were Aerons, about 30 of them. But hey, if ya gotta sit all day...
posted by neuron at 6:21 PM on August 3, 2011


Aerons are worthless for someone who occasionally sits on half-crossed legs.

ow my fuckin ankle
posted by scrowdid at 6:26 PM on August 3, 2011


plus, a new bridge to Canada!
posted by clavdivs at 6:31 PM on August 3, 2011


Class warfare

If we could spruce the room up a bit, it'd be classy warfare.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:40 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


The timeline is a little unclear from the FPP, but the first Free press article is pretty straightforward.

Ah, I just read the "buy high end office furniture" link, which wasn't very clear. Should have dug further before commenting. It doesn't sound that bad, just from that article.
posted by Malor at 6:52 PM on August 3, 2011


filthy light thief writes "What the deuce does a Human Resource department need with TVs?"

Human resource departments often do training and a lot of training, in whole or part, is delivered via video.

*s writes "As a humble public servant working late nights at a woodgrain Formica desk acquired when the office opened in 1977, my first reaction was jealousy."

This was the worst thing about working for a large institution established before WWII. Pre War metal furniture is fracking durable.
posted by Mitheral at 7:38 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Gov't offices should be forced to use IKEA as first choice."

Sorry, Tea Party objection! That would be giving money to socialists. It has to be WalMart all the way - that way it goes straight to our Chinese overlords.
posted by webhund at 7:41 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Steelcase have the coolest trucks.
700$ is not alot of money for a chair.

God save the republic of chairs.
posted by clavdivs at 8:06 PM on August 3, 2011


I think peoples concept of "high end" exhibits quite a bit of variance.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:10 PM on August 3, 2011


quite.
posted by clavdivs at 8:20 PM on August 3, 2011


Just another story to give anti-government zealots a reason to stop funding public programs for poor people.

On the one hand, I want to shake some sense into the local bureaucrats who were responsible for this. On the other, I'm dismayed by the idea that public employees are undercompensatated, underappreciated, and perhaps underqualified in comparison to their private sector analogues – AND they have to meet a higher ethical standard?

This level of graft is par for the course in any large U.S. organization, except, contrary to popular opinion, there is still some accountability in the public sector. That, and when you operate on a shoestring budget, someone WILL miss $200,000. See how long it takes someone to realize that much money is missing at Goldman.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:21 PM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Most IKEA furniture (shelving exempted) isn't going to hold up in most high traffic office settings. The replacement cycle is too short and fabrics won't withstand the industrial cleaning. Also IKEA is not setup for large scale procurement, installation, recycling and ADA policy compliance.
posted by humanfont at 8:28 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was a swarmy Michigan night, tracking down the invoice i ran into the first "wall"

Hi, welcome to ourwebsitecanyouholdplease.
"Sir, it's the FREEP again"
posted by clavdivs at 8:31 PM on August 3, 2011


I'm telling ya, if it was Steelcase, the charge would be republican who-ha.
posted by clavdivs at 8:33 PM on August 3, 2011


I thought Steelcase went to Mexico even after Granholm promised them no taxes and that they could kill one virgin every year with no consequences.
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 PM on August 3, 2011


I guess Bureaucrats need Bureaus.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 11:35 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by hanoixan at 8:50 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't really call the office furniture high-end -- furniture made for commercial use is always three or four times the price of home furniture, usually for at least OK reasons. Aerons, for example, are actually competitively priced for US-made, commercial quality ergonomic chairs. (Don't buy ergo chairs? Prepare to get sued for causing back problems!).

Using money out of a grant account is bad, although I suspect these kinds of shenanigans go on at the local government level, all over the US, all the time. Federal government workers have a nearly religious commitment to honesty and transparency when spending government money...state and local workers are a lot more willing to bend the rules when they can.
posted by miyabo at 8:51 AM on August 4, 2011


It's not just "bad." I'm pretty sure that the term for a company using grant money to reward the granting organization is "graft," or perhaps even more specific, "bribery."

If graft IS common at the local and state level, that's all the more reason to publicly discuss cases where it is discovered and punished.
posted by muddgirl at 9:16 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Steelcase has the cleanest trucks in the world.
granholm.... even the president would'nt give her a job, by contrast, she was quite "green". I suppose that is why she is on the board at Dow with teaching gig at Berkeley, writing a book, some mugshots for Meet the Press.

wow, she is showing us how to make money.
posted by clavdivs at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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