DETROIT – Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said a man who hired private investigators to follow, record and publicly embarrass him threatened to release more "damaging" evidence Wednesday if the city doesn't agree to settle two ongoing lawsuits in his favor.
Duggan spoke publicly about the personal information released by Robert Carmack at a press conference Monday, saying he only wanted to discuss the issue because of a recent threat of further embarrassment.
On Nov. 15, Duggan and his wife, Lori Maher, released a statement in response to Carmack having him followed by private investigators. In the statement, Duggan called Carmack an "angry litigant" who was losing court cases to the Detroit Law Department.
Duggan expanded on that information Monday.
Carmack's legal trouble with city
In 2007, Carmack proposed buying a 10-acre parcel of land from the city of Detroit for $250,000, Duggan said. The city approved the sale on June 20, 2007, and the Law Department sent Carmack the documents to finalize the sale, Duggan said.
According to Duggan, Carmack walked away from the deal and never paid. Since the purchase never happened, the city never sold Carmack the land.
A lawsuit recently by the city on June 1, 2018, alleges that in 2016, Carmack took the old documents that had been sent to him nine years prior and used them to fraudulently represent that he owned the land. Duggan said Carmack used those documents to sell the land to an outside investor, pocketing $1 million.
Days after the lawsuit was filed, Duggan said Carmack's private investigators began following him to gather embarrassing information. Duggan said the earliest video clip he's seen came from June 11.
Carmack is also involved in a lawsuit related to the lot at 8107 Michigan Avenue, Duggan said.
Carmack demands settlement for both lawsuits
Duggan said he didn't know Carmack blamed him for the lawsuits until earlier this month, when a Carmack associate told a member of Duggan's team about the private surveillance.
On Nov. 7, Carmack called city corporation counsel Lawrence Garcia and said he intended to use the video of Duggan visiting a condo in Oakland County to embarrass the mayor.
Carmack demanded that the city settle the $1 million lawsuit and the 8107 Michigan Avenue lawsuit in his favor, Duggan said. Even though the Circuit Court had already ruled in his favor in the 8107 Michigan Avenue case, he didn't want to pay a dollar, according to Duggan.
Garcia told Carmack the city would never agree to that deal, Duggan said.
"Well, you'd better do something," Carmack told Garcia, according to Duggan. "I'm going to make some noise. I'm going to drop a bomb."
Days later, Carmack released the edited video and admitted his goal was to embarrass the mayor, Duggan said.
"I feel like I am being pressured to modify a case by threats to embarrass me or my family," Duggan said.
Threats of further embarrassment
Duggan said Carmack has made more threats this week to further embarrass him and his family. Duggan said he's received multiple messages from Carmack associates saying the embarrassment can be avoided if Duggan or city officials agree to meet with Carmack.
All of Carmack's efforts to communicate were declined because the city wants the talks to be done properly with attorneys present, according to Duggan.
On Tuesday, Duggan said a Carmack associate revealed more embarrassing information would be released this coming Wednesday.
Duggan said he doesn't have specifics about what could be released Wednesday, only that it would be "damaging."
Duggan asks for MSP investigation
Duggan announced he has asked the Michigan State Police to open an independent investigation into the case and how it started.
City officials reached out to law enforcement when threats were received about Wednesday. The case would typically be handled by the Detroit Police Department, but Duggan said he referred the matter to MSP to avoid a conflict of interest.
"The more embarrassing it is, the more important it is that I come out up front and say to the people of Detroit that I'll deal with the embarrassment, but I won't do something that's harmful to the residents," Duggan said.
He said state police and the attorney general are the ones who will ultimately determine if a law is being broken.
Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shawn confirmed that MSP was contacted Monday morning by Duggan's office to conduct an investigation into Carmack.
Duggan promises to put city first
Duggan said that as mayor, it's his job to put the city of Detroit first, even if that has a negative impact on his family.
"I have to choose between protecting the interest of the city or protecting my family," Duggan said. "I had some long conversations this weekend with my family and they're fully supporting my decision.
"The mayor of Detroit has got to put the interest of the people first. So no matter how painful the consequences may be, I am not going to give in to those threats."
Duggan declined to talk about the content of the videos released by Carmack.
"When you're mayor, there's not a whole lot left in your life that's private," Duggan said. "In fact, there's a lot less than I thought. But the one thing you still have is your marriage, and those issues are between Lori and me."
He said he decided to speak publicly to reassure the people of Detroit know where he stands.
"I want the public to know that whatever may be coming, that the mayor was not bothered," Duggan said. "I felt like just being direct and letting people know what's going on was the right thing."
Duggan recounts first meeting with Carmack
Duggan said he first met Carmack right around the time he was elected when he reached out to auto repair shop owners.
"This whole thing is the strangest thing," Duggan said. "I met him either shortly before or shortly after I got elected because one of my first priorities was car insurance."
He said he had a meeting with the auto repair shop owners to talk about cost. Duggan said he remembers Carmack suggesting that the owners put together a network of Detroit car repair shops and offer a lower price.
"My initial interactions with him were not negative, but apparently he had some bad results dealing with the real estate department, but I don't know that I've ever had a bad conversation with him," Duggan said.
Mayor shoots down reports he doesn't live in Detroit
Duggan also addressed recent reports that he doesn't actually live at the Manoogian Mansion in Detroit.
"Of all the things that I have seen, that story, to me, is the most bizarre," Duggan said.
He said he is "disappointed" that the "uncorroborated" claims against him were published without more research. Duggan said anyone could have talked to his neighbors or visited his home and learned that he clearly lives there.
"I sold my old house in Livonia five years ago," Duggan said. "I have no other property. Lori and I have lived in the mansion since Jan. 1, 2014. The dog is there. The cats are there. All of our clothes, our furniture, everything in our entire life is at the Manoogian Mansion."
Full press conference
Duggan also spent some time talking about General Motors' plans to lay off 15 percent of its salaried employees and close five plants, including the Detroit-Hamtramck Plant.
You can watch his full press conference below.