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New Detroit Wayne mental health CEO wants to 'restore trust' after nepotism fallout

Eric Doeh appointed interim CEO Wednesday
Eric Doeh
Posted at 2:27 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 18:19:27-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Eric Doeh has been appointed interim CEO of the state’s largest community mental health authority, taking over after his predecessor was embroiled in a nepotism scheme revealed by 7 Action News.

“This organization is bigger than one person,” Doeh said Wednesday in an interview with Channel 7’s Ross Jones.

RELATED: Detroit Wayne health CEO hid that new hire was son-in-law, intervened in his discipline

He was appointed to lead the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network after its board voted 8-2 last week to oust former CEO Willie Brooks over revelations that he helped his son-in-law Sean Riopelle find a $103,000 a year job with the health network, but kept hidden that they were related.

Brooks intervened when Riopelle faced discipline and possible termination and, later, promoted him to the position of interim deputy legal counsel despite a lack of qualifications.

“That created a distraction from the work that needs to be done here,” Doeh said of the Brooks controversy, “and I’m glad that now we can focus on that work.”

Doeh was previously the health network’s Chief Operating Officer and was on the committee that hired Riopelle as legal counsel in 2019. He said he did not know the two were related at the time, and did not learn until recently.

He said one of his top priorities is “to restore any sense of trust that we may have lost as a result of these past couple of weeks here, and when you go through something like this, no matter how well you think you’ve done…there’s always the question of how does the public think of the work that we do?”

Doeh came to DWIHN after a successful tenure at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit. He was part of the team that prosecuted and ultimately put away Kwame Kilpatrick in 2013 and served as deputy chief assistant US Attorney for two years before joining DWIHN in 2017.

“I have learned so much in this space and have realized that, in my prior job, so much of it was connected to behavioral health and substance abuse that I didn’t acknowledge or pay attention to,” Doeh said.

As fate would have it, the top job in his old office is now available. Doeh is on the short list of candidates being considered as the next US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

He would not say how that job could affect how long he may be in this one.

“I am wholeheartedly committed to this work at the moment, and will continue to do so,” he said. “All of the ifs and whats, those are just what those are. Ifs and whats.”

Doeh takes over at a time when mental health services in Wayne County are at their most needed.

In addition to serving 75,000 clients in the midst of a pandemic, the mental health network today is building a new crisis center along Woodward Avenue, placing clinicians in Detroit’s 911 call center to better handle calls involving the mentally ill and launching an outreach program to better serve and reach the city’s homeless.

“At the end of the day, this is the people’s work that we do,” Doeh said. “I want to make sure we do it well, we do it efficiently, we are honest.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.