An independent investigation ordered by the city revealed that Mayor Edmonds knew that she could not accept gifts valued at more than $25, yet she allowed a developer interested in doing business with the city to pay for her visa to China. The investigation also claims the mayor knew or should have known that the trip was being funded by the developer and not by a student group at Wayne State University.
Council member Beth Bashert represents the second ward.
"It's basically a public scolding and laying out of the mistakes that she made with that," said Bashert.
In a statement sent to WEMU, Mayor Edmonds said that she trusted city staff, both in making the arrangements and ensuring those arrangements met the ethical guidelines as outlined by the city charter and other applicable laws. The mayor also said she looks forward to serving out her term through this fall.
Below is her full statement:
With the release of the final report of the investigation of city officials’ September 2018 trip to China, to do due diligence around a major potential development, we finally have answers to questions that surfaced after our departure to China and further upon our return. As I stated last fall, I supported the completion of the report and was happy to share everything in my knowledge on the public record. The report reaffirmed that everything I knew or understood was already shared with council and public last fall, and that my actions did not violate the city ethics ordinance or state law around conflict or interest or gift acceptance. I was disappointed upon reading the report, however, to learn that I and others had been misled, and that there were improper actions by some parties.
While the record continues to show that I was the one who both asked further questions about the origins of the CSSA’s funds and did additional research to ensure that both I and the public knew that this trip’s funding met the guidelines as we knew it needed to, this report shows that I was misled. The others on the trip had the same information I had prior to our departure; the investigator, however, failed to interview all of those from the city who went on the trip, which is to not in any way to suggest any wrongdoing on the part of the Mayor Pro Tem, but just the inadequacy of the report. No city staff, city legal counsel, or other members of council brought up concerns around the source of funding prior to the trip, and I had no reason not to trust our staff and legal counsel’s professional experience on this matter. Our legal counsel did not question the source of the student group's funding or in any way suggest it would not comply with our ethics rules. I had never been involved with any trip of this nature and trusted staff both in making the arrangements and ensuring those arrangements met the ethical guidelines as outlined by our city charter and other applicable laws — as is their role in administering the daily work of the city, outlined in our city charter. In the future I will take a more active role in oversight. Still, my understanding and actions in the report are consistent with everything I shared on the public record last fall.
Now that this process has finally concluded, we need to get back to the important work of moving the city forward. In recent months we’ve made good progress as a city. Community engagement in economic development and housing affordability, in particular, remains high and is moving in partnership with city council in a productive way. Residents are expressing interest in giving input in the budget process. People continue to step up to participate in solutions to pressing issues in our community. I look forward while serving out my term through this fall to supporting these and other important dialogues, opportunities for engagement, and translation of our values and priorities into policy that benefits our residents and all of our community stakeholders. And, since I am not running for a second term, I look forward to welcoming my successor as Mayor of Ypsilanti.
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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org