DETROIT – Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (search), whose city is struggling with a projected $230 million deficit, has charged at least $210,000 for travel, meals, a bottle of pricey champagne and other items on his city-issued credit card over nearly three years, public records show.
The charges cover the first 33 months of Kilpatrick's four-year term that began in January 2002. The Detroit Free Press said Tuesday that it obtained the records last month through a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request.
The purchases include 78 charges for meals over the 33 months, including a $283 bill at Danny's Grand Sea Palace (search) in New York in January 2002 and a $456 bill at the Capital Grille in Washington in September 2003.
The 34-year-old former state House Democratic leader also spent more than $600 at two upscale restaurants in January 2002 while attending a U.S. Conference of Mayors' (search) meeting in Washington. In March 2002, he charged a $194 dinner, including an $85 bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne, at an Atlanta restaurant owned by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs.
Kilpatrick spokesman Howard Hughey told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the mayor's travels and entertainment have been part of his effort to attract business to the city, which has struggled with a steep population decline since the 1950s and the resulting erosion of the tax base.
"As indicative of any first-term mayor, he has done so to meet with several potential public and private investors," Hughey said.
Meals make up less than a tenth of the charges to the city credit card, with travel accounting for most of it, Hughey said. He said there is no city policy preventing the mayor from charging alcohol but said Kilpatrick generally has not done so.
Kilpatrick's immediate predecessor, Dennis Archer, said he never billed taxpayers for alcohol and normally paid out of his own pocket or from other funds for meals above $40. "The city really had no funds to entertain anybody," he said.
Kilpatrick has cultivated an image as a fun-loving leader with a hip-hop lifestyle, but has been dogged by complaints about wild parties, lavish entertainment and use of city vehicles for personal family travel.
"He just does not get it," said City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail, who is running to unseat Kilpatrick in what is expected to be a tough re-election fight this year. "These are very immature, irresponsible actions ... charging lobster and crab legs and champagne."
Kilpatrick's salary was about $176,000 before he said he would cut it by 10 percent, or $17,600, to help close the shortfall in Detroit's $1.6 billion budget.
The mayor's proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 calls for 754 layoffs and assumes unions will agree to a 10 percent pay cut, as well as changes in health benefits.
An April telephone poll of 402 likely voters showed Kilpatrick running neck-and-neck with McPhail and former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix in the Sept. 13 primary.