Fundraiser for mayoral staffer raises questions

(WXYZ) - If you work for the City of Detroit, or you have deep pockets, you may have gotten an invitation for a "Enchanted Evening" with Lisa Howze.

The mayor's chief governmental affairs officer needs help paying off $75,000 in debt from her failed 2013 mayoral run.

The mayor is a headliner at her fundraiser, as is big-time city developer Herb Strather, who organized the gala.

Getting in isn't cheap, with tickets at $250 and $100. Included is a swank night out at the Hotel St. Regis downtown, complete with food and entertainment. Oh--and you might make friends with the mayor too.

That's what has some asking--is this really a ticket to city hall?

"Is it going to buy you influence? You'll get a return phone call---lets put it that way," says Tim Kiska with the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Kiska is also a 7 Action News pollster.

But he adds, "This kind of thing happens to some degree all the time."

A spokesman for Strather says the developer has no current contracts with the city, so he isn't looking for a kickback.

We went to the mayor's office to question Howze about her event.

"It will be enchanting to retire the debt," she said.

"Its not uncommon that anyone who runs for political office and does not attain that goal, for them to accumulate debt. Anyone who wants to be supportive of helping to retire that, certainly, that support is welcome," she added.

When asked if donors will get special treatment by her or the mayor, she replied, "No."

When asked what the mayor's involvement be, she said, "He will probably just make an appearance and say some remarks."

She also says there is no requirement or pressure for city employees to attend.

However some observers say, it puts city employees or past donors in a tough spot to reject the invitation for fear they might fall out of standing.

The event has raised questions, as the city has a dark past with pay for play politics in previous administrations.

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