Detroit pension board's pick for general counsel controversial

Detroit pension board's pick for general counsel controversial

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Joseph Turner has been chosen as the Detroit police and fire pension board's new general counsel. Joseph Turner has been chosen as the Detroit police and fire pension board's new general counsel.
DETROIT (WJBK) -

As we all know by now, the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption scandal is a tangled web, and in March, attorney Ron Zajac was caught up in it. He served as general counsel for the police and fire pension board and was fired after being indicted for bribery and accused of giving kickbacks to the former mayor and city treasurer.

Attorney Joseph Turner with the law firm Clark Hill has admitted he was "Attorney B" in that indictment.

"I have been called over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and I have provided testimony to them, truthful testimony," he said.

Turner is named for allegedly giving cash to the suspects who were indicted before receiving a pay increase. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

"I have never been informed that I was a target. If I were a target, I could not remain here in this capacity," he said.

Now the police and fire pension board has voted 9 to 6 to hire Clark Hill and Turner as general counsel to replace Zajac, a decision that is not sitting well with everyone.

"To have him still here as our general counsel, I think, is a conflict," said one board member.

"There has been nothing that has been said or that was included in the indictment that would indicate he played any other part in it," said Trustee Cheryl Johnson.

The city's two pension funds will need lawyers as they prepare to battle for control of the system. They have set aside $5 million to fight attempts by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to take over or cut retiree benefits, although the trustee chair said they plan to work with him.

"I want him to have all the facts, too. This is my retirement. I'm very concerned, more so than probably the average citizen. I have a vested interest in this system flourishing, and if I thought anybody could do it better, I'm all ears," said Matt Gnatek.

As we have reported, Orr plans to meet with the city's creditors and bondholders on Friday where he is expected to offer them pennies on the dollar for what they are owed by Detroit. Depending on what happens, the city could file for bankruptcy.

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