Ten days ago, intern-bullying Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh disappeared from public view, stopped showing up to meetings and deleted all traces of social media in the midst of a municipal struggle swirling around a possible city bankruptcy. Today, he's facing serious allegations of misconduct with a recent high school graduate.
A woman, who has chosen to remain unidentified, told her son's vice principal at Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men that she was concerned about gifts he was receiving through Pugh, who runs a mentoring program (named after him: the Charles Pugh Leadership Forum) for students at the all-male school, according to The Detroit News. The student was a participant in the program.
The mother told WXYZ that the alleged gifts from Pugh included cash for prom expenses and a hotel room, clothes, a new phone and paying to activate the phone.
Pugh and the woman's son allegedly told the woman there was nothing to the gifts; the councilman's words were "I did nothing inappropriate with your son" and asked her not to speak with any press about the situation. That wasn't enough for an attorney representing the woman to tell reporters later today, after the reports surfaced, that he has "disturbing, inappropriate" but not "criminal" text messages alleging that Pugh tried to seduce the young man when he was 17. For the record, Michigan's age of consent is 16.
The student is now 18 and a high school graduate. The attorney says they will decide by Monday whether to go forth with civil charges.
That Pugh is gay — Detroit's first openly gay elected official — and facing allegations surrounding a young male student has already drawn wild speculations among the local news comment-section elite, but sexual orientation aside, the councilman has a spotty history of ethics and legal missteps in general. That Detroit may be enduring yet another text-message scandal in the vein of Kwame Kilpatrick, Judge Wade McCree and ex-police Chief Ralph Godbee isn't lost either.
Before being elected to council, Pugh was a news anchor at WJBK and radio co-host at hip-hop station WJLB. Holding both jobs simultaneously, Pugh was earning in the neighborhood of $200,000 annually. Pugh now earns $80,000 annually as council president. Over the years between all those jobs, Pugh was discovered to have several eviction notices for non-payment of rent in a Detroit apartment, was sued for non-payment of condo fees and has fallen into foreclosure twice — once before his stint as a politician, and walking away the second time after election.
Pugh was also involved in a shady car accident in a city-owned vehicle which he failed to report on in a timely manner; used city stationery to encourage a vote against a city proposal, a legal no-no; is a fan of closed-door meetings; had a shadowy non-profit that may not be using its funds properly; and has a bit of a temper tantrum when it comes to reporters who question his policies or citizens wishing for additional public comment at city council meetings. Not to mention, he threatened the job of a young journalist who commented about a weight-loss video he released during another time of city crisis.
Pugh has been AWOL for 10 days and the city's emergency manager has warned that if he does not show today, he will be stripped of his salary and obligations. Which means, as you read, he may be out of a job and income. By the way, Pugh is the third city council member of a nine-member body to drop off the rolls this month; ex-councilman Kwame Kenyatta resigned due to illness and today, council president pro tem Gary Brown resigned to work for the aforementioned emergency manager.
Perhaps more telling is Pugh's 10-day-and-counting silence, and whatever may come from his pleas to his mentee's mother to not speak to reporters about the alleged gifts. Pugh said earlier this year he would not be pursuing political office and was mulling a return to journalism. Who'd trust him to gather and disseminate information after a growing list of bad judgment calls is anyone's guess.
[Photo via PughandYou.com]