City Lawyer Quits Post In Detroit

Police Monitor Reportedly Had Relationship With Ex-mayor

August 01, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

A Baltimore-based lawyer, who for six years worked as a court-appointed monitor overseeing Detroit police reforms, resigned last week after disclosure of a "personal relationship" with disgraced Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Text messages obtained by FBI agents and turned over to a federal judge revealed an 18-month relationship between Kilpatrick and Sheryl Robinson Wood, whose husband is campaigning for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. Detroit newspapers reported Monday that the text messages span a period from 2003 to 2005 and document Kilpatrick and Wood meeting in Washington and other places for meals and at hotels that were not related to her role as a federal monitor.

On July 24, U.S. District Judge Julian Cook announced Robinson Wood had resigned after being confronted with the documents, according to published reports. Detroit officials are reviewing thousands of pages of documents to determine what impact the relationship may have had on the consent decree, which required the city to spend millions of dollars but had brought little progress.

Robinson Wood defended herself in a statement through her attorneys that called her "an exemplary lawyer who conscientiously fulfilled all of her duties as the monitor of the Detroit Police Department. Any allegations to the contrary are misguided. She looks forward to the opportunity to restore her good name in short order."

A spokesman for Venable LLP, the law firm where she was hired as a partner in January, declined comment.

Robinson Wood, a former state and federal prosecutor, was appointed as the federal monitor in 2003 after Detroit entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department to address allegations of police misconduct, including a high number of officer-involved shootings, prisoners dying in lockup and reports of false arrests.

Even before the text messages surfaced, concerns were being raised about Robinson Wood's effectiveness. Last month, Cook said Detroit's progress in correcting abuses under the consent decree was "grossly inadequate" and was costing the city millions. Robinson Wood's 12-member team was paid $180,000 a month and had received $10 million since 2003.

She kept the position through three job changes, first with Washington risk-management consultant agency Kroll Inc., then Saul Ewing LLP, which she joined in 2007. Her practice at Venable focuses on white-collar criminal cases, commercial litigation, internal investigations and corporate governance issues.

Robinson Wood's husband, Wesley Wood, a former aide to Gov. Parris N. Glendening and City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., is campaigning for a House of Delegates seat to represent the 44th District. A link to her biography on the campaign Web page appeared to have been taken down; attempts to reach the candidate were unsuccessful.

Kilpatrick resigned last year as mayor and pleaded guilty to two felony charges in connection with a settlement orchestrated to cover up an affair with his chief of staff that he had lied about under oath.

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