Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been ordered to pay an $11,000 fine for using campaign funds to pay his legal expenses. But he could have been on the hook for much more.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had argued that Kilpatrick should pay back $976,000 , plus fines. She said campaign finance laws prohibited him from using campaign dollars to defend himself against felony charges, including perjury.
However, Kilpatrick’s lawyer Jim Thomas has convinced an administrative law judge that the payments were proper.
“It was our position that if he was convicted of a felony he would automatically lose his job, so to keep his job he had to fight the case,” said Thomas.
The administrative law judge ruled against Kilpatrick for using campaign funds to defend himself against a charge of assaulting a public officer.
He must pay the $11,000 fine within 30 days, or the matter will be turned over either to a circuit court or to the Michigan Department of Treasury.
“This decision illustrates why we need laws that will allow us to uphold the integrity of our elections system,” said Johnson. “Re-election campaign funds should never be used to pay legal fees associated with a criminal case nor should candidates or elected officials be allowed to ignore reporting requirements.”
Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and resigned from office in 2008 after he lied at a civil trial to cover up an extramarital affair with his chief of staff, which was exposed through a series of graphic text messages. That lawsuit cost Detroit $8.4 million.
Kilpatrick was imprisoned in May 2010 for failing to disclose assets and surrender sufficient funds that could have reduced his $1 million restitution to Detroit. He was released Aug. 2, 2011, and has moved to Texas with his wife and three sons.