Three stainless-steel trash cans with motion-activated sensor lids: $314.93 each. A 500-lb capacity ottoman for the cafeteria: $469. Mahogany-finished conference room table: $3,000. The line items sound extravagant enough on their own. When you learn that they were to makeover a Detroit city office that handles the federal money for feeding and clothing the poor, and the credenzas and sofas and such came out of that money, it’s time to get livid.
The Detroit Free Press blew the lid off this misspending and waste after it used a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of the receipt for the pricey office furniture that was delivered to Detroit’s Human Services Department. You can look at the entire receipt here (PDF).
The $210,000 used to buy the office furniture came directly a $1.2 million grant that was specifically supposed to cover the salaries and administrative costs of hiring employees for food and clothing banks, reports the Detroit Free Press. What makes the misappropriation all the more enraging to the citizens of Detroit is that this same Human Services Department, saying they were short on funds, didn’t open a high-demand warming center for homeless people until late this winter. Employees were amazed to see the new furniture arrive, considering their wages had been cut 10% last year.
The Free Press story kicked off an FBI investigation and resulted in the Director of the office and several other employees being suspended. The Mayor’s office, the police, and the city’s auditor general are wrapping up their investigations of the office following the report. The Mayor said the results would probably end up with most, if not all, of the suspended employees getting fired.
“Mayor Bing has made it clear that city government must work for residents,” mayoral spokesman Dan Lijana told the Detroit Free Press. “He has zero tolerance for the reality or appearance of misuse or mismanagement of funds.”
High-end items for Detroit office bought with money for poor people [Detroit Free Press]
Money to help poor people buys furniture for Detroit department [Detroit Free Press]
Bing fires 3 managers over misspending of $210K in federal funds for the poor [Detroit Free Press]