September 23, 2020
Investigative Reporters and Editors has named the City of Detroit and Mayor Mike Duggan as the winner of its annual Golden Padlock Award, which recognizes the most secretive U.S. agency or individual.
Detroit was selected for this national honor for its handling of a Detroit Free Press public information request and for ordering the destruction of internal documents.
Initially, city officials claimed key records the newspaper sought were lost in a corrupted file. When the Free Press demanded the files be recovered, the documents ultimately showed Duggan had ordered city officials to fundraise for a nonprofit run by a woman he was observed meeting with after hours at a suburban home.
The case also featured senior administrators ordering staff to delete emails related to the scandal – an act the city’s inspector general concluded showed “blatant disregard for transparency and good governance.”
A subsequent Free Press records request triggered a $222,000 fee estimate from the city, sparking a Free Press lawsuit, which remains before the courts.
“The siege mentality displayed by senior city officials in this case strains credulity,” said Golden Padlock committee chair Robert Cribb. “It is a reminder of the extraordinary lengths some dedicated civil servants and elected officials will go to protect self interest at the expense of the public interest.”
IRE invited Duggan and Detroit officials to receive the honor. No response was received. Detroit officials have denied the allegations in the lawsuit.
“Unfortunately, it seems more and more agencies compete for this award each year through their growing efforts to suppress information,” IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix said. “Our IRE community will keep watching, reporting and calling out violations of the public trust.”
There were no additional finalists this year.
Robert Cribb, Golden Padlock committee chair: 416-579-0289; email@example.com
Doug Haddix, IRE Executive Director: 573-882-1984; firstname.lastname@example.org