Detroit pension trustee makes controversial comment at meeting - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Detroit pension trustee makes controversial comment at meeting

Posted: Updated:
Cheryl Johnson Cheryl Johnson
DETROIT (WJBK) -

Thursday's Detroit pension board meeting took a bizarre turn. At the end of the meeting, pension board member and Mayor Bing appointee Cheryl Johnson made the following comment while greeting a group of firefighters fighting to protection their pensions and public safety.

"I'm very happy to see you all here. I would like to encourage all of you and -- trying to choose my words carefully -- other members who look like you to come to these meetings."

That comment led to this one from Matt Gnatek, a fellow pension board trustee.

"When the city's getting ready to file for bankruptcy on a Friday, in a closed session we're discussing strategy, and next thing you know they're filing on a Thursday. Thinking that someone from this board possibly told the city that we're doing what we're doing."

And within minutes the arguing began.

"You know as a fact that what they did was based on what happened in a closed session here how?" Johnson said.

"I'm making that assumption," Gnatek responded.

"You shouldn't make assumptions like that," Johnson said.

"Well, you make assumptions too," Gnatek retorted. "You do that all the time."

Then the conversation went back to race.

"Cheryl, can you expound on your comment that you hope guys that look like them?" Gnatek said.

"I hope that the black firefighters and the black police take a more active role in the running of this board," Johnson replied.

"Why does the race of somebody have to have anything to do with the running of this board?" Gnatek remarked.

"I took massive offense to it. I know other people in that room took offense to it, but I think they speak for themselves," Gnatek said afterwards.

So does this whole drama speak to a deeper division between pension trustees at the worst possible time?

"If pension board members are spending time fighting amongst themselves, how can you really mount a strong defense in the face of bankruptcy?" I asked Gnatek.

"We always get the job done no matter what. This is an unfortunate and I hope isolated incident, but it was very telling," he said.

"We went to the pension board meeting to stay informed. We want to stay informed. We don't want our pension touched or included in bankruptcy," said firefighter Dennis Hunter. "I do not agree that it's just blacks or whites. I think all firemen, all police that's in that pension should be involved."

Johnson refused to comment for this story. Meanwhile, the pension board is scheduled to meet again next Thursday.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Power outage numbers across southeast Michigan

    Power outage numbers across southeast Michigan

    Monday, July 28 2014 10:01 AM EDT2014-07-28 14:01:04 GMT
    As of 6 a.m., approximately 165,000 DTE Energy customers are out of electric service due to the high winds and lightning that hit southeast Michigan Sunday afternoon. DTE has restored power to 21,000 customers that were affected by the storm, which included wind gusts of up to 70 m.p.h. in the DTE service area.
    As of 6 a.m., approximately 165,000 DTE Energy customers are out of electric service due to the high winds and lightning that hit southeast Michigan Sunday afternoon. DTE has restored power to 21,000 customers that were affected by the storm, which included wind gusts of up to 70 m.p.h. in the DTE service area.
  • Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    Monday, July 28 2014 7:34 AM EDT2014-07-28 11:34:12 GMT
    Dollar Tree is buying rival discount store Family Dollar in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $8.5 billion.
    Dollar Tree is buying rival discount store Family Dollar in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $8.5 billion.
  • Storm damage in Oakland and Macomb counties

    Storm damage in Oakland and Macomb counties

    Monday, July 28 2014 6:27 AM EDT2014-07-28 10:27:31 GMT
    Damage was reported across Metro Detroit Sunday after severe storms moved across our area. About 200,000 customers lost power in the hail, heavy rain, strong winds, localized flooding and thunder and lightning.
    Damage was reported across Metro Detroit Sunday after severe storms moved across our area. About 200,000 customers lost power in the hail, heavy rain, strong winds, localized flooding and thunder and lightning.
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices