DETROIT (WXYZ) — A controversial figure who played a central role on a Kwame Kilpatrick's secret slush fund has been nominated to serve on a critical mental health board over the objection of at least one county commissioner.
For years, William Phillips was a key figure on the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s secret slush fund he abused as mayor and ultimately landed him in federal prison.
Philips served on the fund’s board for years and first made the news back in 2007 when 7 Action News exposed how Kilpatrick used his fund to pay for an $8,600 family vacation to a California spa.
Kilpatrick had claimed the fund helped Detroit children and senior citizens so, when the story broke, Phillips came to the Mayor’s defense. He said Kilpatrick's family vacation wasn’t really a vacation at all.
“This trip was to pay for a fundraising out in California,” Phillips insisted back in 2007, declining to name any funders the mayor met with.
But at Kilpatrick’s corruption trial, the feds ultimately proved that the mayor used the fund to help himself, paying for things like personal travel, yoga, golf clubs and college tuition. In total, Kilpatrick was convicted of using the Civic Fund for $200,000 in personal expenses, all while Phillips sat on the Civic Fund’s board.
Now, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans wants to appoint Phillips to a new position of authority on the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network’s board, serving those who suffer from mental illness.
“When there’s a shadow or any type of impropriety in the past that comes to light, then we shouldn’t be putting those people in positions of trust,” Commissioner Anderson said, adding later: “Anyone with a checkered past should not be considered.”
Anderson says that even though Phillips was never charged with any impropriety, his role with a fund that broke the law should disqualify him from serving the public.
“You have to wonder whether that person would make the same choices and make the same decisions that they made previously,” he said.
Phillips has been one of Evans’ most reliable campaign donors, writing checks totaling more than $7,000 since 2013.
This isn’t the first time Evans has tried to appoint him to a county board. In 2016, he nominated him to serve on the Great Lakes Water Authority but, after some commissioners complained, the nomination was rescinded and Evans nominated someone else.
“It’s almost like this administration doesn’t realize there’s other people in Wayne County that they could call on,” Anderson said.
In a statement issued today, County Executive Warren Evans defending Phillips nomination to the board.
"I am fully confident in the ability of William Phillips to handle this assignment and to handle it well," Evans said. "William is an esteemed lawyer, reputable businessman and strong community advocate. I have no reason or evidence to believe that there are any obstacles present to detract from his ability to do good work for the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network board."
The Wayne County Commission is set to vote on Phillips’ nomination Thursday morning at 10AM.
If he’s appointed, he’ll be serving alongside the Health Network’s new CEO, Eric Doeh.
Doeh is already familiar with Phillips. In 2013, while an assistant U.S. Attorney, he helped prosecute Kilpatrick over how he used the Kilpatrick Civic Fund during a six-month corruption trial.
Phillips did not return a call and e-mail seeking comment.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.