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Detroit CFO suspended over "hostile and abusive" comments

Paul Hitzelberger
United Photo Works

Detroit’s new chief financial officer has been suspended.

The city’s former finance director, Cheryl Johnson, has accused Jim Bonsall of creating a hostile work environment, particularly for black women.

In a letter sent this week, Johnson, who was recently demoted, wrote that Bonsall stated during a meeting that he “wouldn’t subject his family” to neighborhood patrols that city appointees usually do around Halloween in Detroit. He then asked, “Can I shoot someone in a hoodie?”

Bonsall later apologized through a written statement issued by Orr’s office: "I apologize and am sorry for having offended coworkers over comments I made during a recent meeting. Regardless of the outcome of the internal investigation or whether I keep my job as a result of it, it was never my intention to offend anyone."

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr brought Bonsall on board in July as a restructuring expert, after Bonsall lobbied for the job through Governor Snyder’s office. He had retired after a career spent mostly in the corporate world.

Detroit City Council President Saunteel Jenkins says the incident highlights issues with some people who come to government from the private sector.

“The private sector is completely different,” Jenkins says. “But when you’re spending taxpayer dollars, there’s a much higher level of accountability.”

Orr has suspended Bonsall with pay pending an internal investigation. 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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