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Detroit CFO resigns over controversial comments

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit’s chief financial officer, Jim Bonsall, has resigned.

Bonsall had only been on the job since mid-July. He was brought in by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr, after lobbying for the job through Governor Snyder’s office.

But Bonsall’s management style alienated some. And he came under investigation after a recently-demoted city employee reported racially-charged comments he made at a meeting.

Former finance director Cheryl Johnson, who is African American, reported the comments in a letter to city officials. Johnson wrote that Bonsall was incredulous when told city appointees help with neighborhood patrols in Detroit around Halloween.

After being told he wouldn’t be accompanied by a police escort, Bonsall said he “wouldn’t subject his family to that.” He then asked jokingly whether he could “shoot someone in a hoodie”—an apparent reference to the Trayvon Martin killing.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Orr said he’d accepted Bonsall’s resignation, noting that “Jim has made great improvements in how the city handles his cash and finance operations in the short time he has been here, but it is clear that new leadership is needed to continue to move the City of Detroit forward.”

Orr’s office will conduct a search for a new CFO. In the meantime, Chief Operating Officer and former City Council member Gary Brown will serve in that role.

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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