Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has cleared Mayor Mike Duggan and his current and former aides of wrongdoing in an investigation into the deletion of emails associated with Make Your Date, a prenatal health organization run by a woman with whom he's said to be romantically linked.
The administration's relationship with the program has been under a cloud since the Free Press published a 2019 expose indicating city officials may have given it preferential treatment. That notion was confirmed by Detroit's Office of the Inspector General, which conducted a subsequent investigation that found three aides — led by former Chief of Staff and now-Duggan campaign manager Alexis Wiley — abused their authority in ordering lower-level staff to delete correspondence about the program.
The Detroit News reports that in addition to reviewing whether emails were destroyed to hide the mayor's relationship with Dr. Sonia Hassan, Nessel's office looked at whether public funds were misappropriated.
Nessel said Wednesday that her office interviewed 21 witnesses, executed four search warrants and reviewed thousands of pages of financial documents as well as more than one million documents seized with the help of Michigan State Police from the city's Information Technology Department.
Her office evaluated whether evidence could lead to charges of misconduct in office, bribery, embezzlement or destruction of public records.
While the actions of city employees "might not rise to ethical behavior, they also don't rise to criminal behavior," Nessel contends.
"The biggest problem here is there were no public documents that were destroyed. In fact, each and every one of these emails ultimately was recovered," she said Wednesday. "We could not identify anywhere a case in which there was an attempt to destroy public documents where that had been sustained. Even if there was an attempt at some juncture to destroy public documents, there was no success."
Nessel said it would be difficult to take the claims to a jury and "have any chance of a successful outcome and the ability to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
A whistleblower the city has characterized as a disgruntled former employee told The News she was disappointed by the outcome, calling it politically motivated. Nessel and Duggan are both Democrats, and Ryan Friedrichs, a former top aide implicated in the scandal, is married to Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
Duggan's office commented on Nessel's decision.
"The decision to try to delete (emails) was bad judgment, not a crime. There was nothing damaging in any of them," said mayoral spokesman John Roach. He added the city last year instituted a policy to automatically back up all employee emails and retain them for a two-year period "in order to make certain this problem cannot arise again."