MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick.
Coming up, we go inside the virtual campaigns, where the competition for votes and attention goes high tech online.
BRAND: First, the perils of texting. Prosecutors are investigating Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for possibly lying under oath in a whistleblower case. When testifying on the witness stand over the summer, Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, each denied having an affair. The Detroit Free Press found 14,000 text messages that appear to contradict that. And today Christine Beatty is resigning as the mayor's chief of staff.
Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke the story. M.L. Elrick, welcome to the program.
Mr. M.L. ELRICK (Detroit Free Press): Thanks for having me.
BRAND: Fourteen thousand text messages. How did you get a hold of them and what did they say?
Mr. ELRICK: Well, that's the question everybody in Detroit is asking, and I'm afraid we can't answer. We have to protect our sources on this one. But I can tell you what they say. You know, the fascinating thing is, these were paid for by taxpayer dollars. These are supposed to be business machines. And there's very, very little city business conducted on these.
Most of the chatter is what you'd expect from a couple of lovestruck high schoolers. What are you doing? You know, I miss you. Trading song lyrics that are apropos to their romance as well as movie lines. You know, you had me at hello from "Jerry McGuire." Very little about what we can do with this contract negotiation. Very little about how we have to shift budget dollars from here to there. It's really striking for how little business is conducted at the people's expense.
BRAND: But they testified under oath in this whistle-blower case over the summer that there was no way that they were having an affair, that there was - there were no sexual relations happening. And why was that important in the context of this lawsuit?
Mr. ELRICK: Yeah. And this is one of the points we really try to emphasize. Our story is not about sex. I don't care whether they were having sex. I don't even want to think about it, to be honest with you. But the issue here is police officers lost their jobs because they were investigating the mayor. They alleged that one of the reasons that they were retaliated against for their investigations was because the mayor and Christine Beatty were afraid that if these investigations took their natural course, they would uncover these affairs. And of course the mayor and Ms. Beatty couldn't let that happen. So these guys got the axe.
BRAND: The mayor actually fought this because there were attempts earlier on to settle these cases. And the mayor said no, and that has meant the city has spent a lot of money on this.
Mr. ELRICK: Well, you know, even if the city had won the lawsuit, it would've spent a lot of money. The mayor's legal bills - see, the city has a law department. But in a case like this the mayor has chosen to use some private attorneys as well. Some of these guys are high-priced attorneys charging $350, $375 an hour. The mayor's legal tab is now at over $600,000, and it's still counting. Nine million dollars so far of taxpayer money have been spent on this whole, I guess, imbroglio, this fiasco, however you want to call it.
And you know, in Detroit that goes a long way. This city typically runs $100 million deficits. Nine million dollars in Detroit will demolish 1,200 abandoned homes. It will hire over 130 firefighters and pay their benefits. It'll hire over 120 police officers and pay their benefits. That's sorely needed help in a city that has cut 1,000 police officers from its ranks in the past five years. Almost a third of the cops have been taken off the street because we don't have enough money.
BRAND: Now, since your story was published, the mayor has not made any public comments. Are people expecting him to say anything about this or to actually resign?
Mr. ELRICK: We gave the city and the mayor and Ms. Beatty ample time to respond to this before we published this story. Their response was to get a couple of plane tickets and get out of town. I believe they went out of town separately. And I have to be honest with you. I'm stunned. This has just ignited a firestorm. People are calling for this guy to come out of office. That is unbelievable.
Now, the odds that he'll actually do it are very slim. He has so many friends and family members on the city payroll that they certainly are going to try and talk him out of it.
But the question becomes where does he go? He's got a great job. He makes great money. He doesn't ever pick up a tab for a meal. He lives in a city-provided mansion. It's a pretty sweet gig. What would you go to? I mean, I see no incentive for him to leave.
BRAND: M.L. Elrick is an investigative reporter with the Detroit Free Press, reporting on the mayor and his chief of staff allegedly having an affair after the paper found 14,000 text messages.
Thanks for joining me.
Mr. ELRICK: It's my pleasure. This is not the last story we'll have. Keep looking at Freep.com, because I'll tell you what. I think the bigger stories are yet to come.