While Michigan’s Attorney Grievance Commission sought disbarment, a state discipline panel headed by Assistant United States Attorney William Sauget has handed down only a 90 day suspension for Detroit City Attorney Valerie Colbert-Osamuede. Colbert-Osamuede who is accused of lying to the Detroit City Council, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge and the Attorney Grievance Commission about a settlement and alleged coverup benefitting then-mayor (and now convicted felon) Kwame Kilpatrick. Despite this trifecta of false statements and the panel’s conclusion that she was still not sure she is telling the truth, Sauget’s panel still refused to hand down a disbarment or something more substantial as a punishment.
The suspension and $22, 497.65 fine (they appear not to round up on cents) seems rather disconnected by the finding of the panel that it was skeptical when Colbert-Osamuede claimed that she simply did not recall a rather unique confidential agreement designed to cover up text messages showing that then-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and a top aide lied about their affair during a 2007 whistle-blower trial. She claims that the settlement simply slipped her mind when repeatedly asked about the case by the city council, a judge, and investigators. The settlement included an $8.4 million payout.
The panel wrote “One is hard-pressed to believe an attorney involved in the litigation would misplace, forget or simply lose sight of such an important document.” However, it then imposes just a 90 day suspension when expressing skepticism that the lawyer had testified truthfully. This is presumably still the position of Colbert-Osamuede –meaning that she is still offering testimony that the panel believes is probably untrue. Yet, the panel decided that Colbert-Osamuede was unlikely to repeat her violation.
I have tried to confirm reports that Colbert-Osamuede remains the city attorney. If true, it would mean that a city attorney can give false or misleading testimony to the city council, a judge, and state investigators and not only face a short suspension but keep her job representing the city of Detroit.