$2,000 gift from 'rooftop pastor' to ex-mayor investigated
Rev. Corey Brooks speaks before he unveils the details of his plan to raise funds for a community center by walking across the country from New York City to Los Angeles. (Heather Charles/ Chicago Tribune / April 22, 2012)
Brooks said Kilpatrick, who was forced to resign as mayor in 2008 and served 14 months in prison, wrote a letter during the holiday season pleading for financial assistance for his family. Brooks said he responded by wiring him $2,000.
"If anybody sends me a heart-wrenching letter, the way that letter was written, if I had any power to help, I would help," Brooks said. "That's just the way I am."
A video recording shows Kilpatrick collecting the wired money at a Michigan Wal-Mart, pocketing $800 and wiring the rest to his family now living in Texas, according to Fox-TV affiliate WJBK in Detroit. Michigan authorities are investigating whether Kilpatrick deceived them by not including the $2,000 in his required report of income and gifts for December, according to WJBK and the Detroit Free Press.
Kilpatrick owes the city of Detroit hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution, WJBK said, and could be sent back to prison over failure to disclose the $2,000 gift.
Kilpatrick, his father and a longtime friend are on trial in federal court in Detroit, accused of rigging contracts. Asked about the Brooks donation outside of court, Kilpatrick labeled the matter "trivial," but said he had followed the rules of his parole, the Free Press reported.
Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood, is best known for camping out on the roof of an abandoned South Side motel for three months last winter in a campaign to raise funds to demolish it.
Brooks said he has known the former Detroit mayor for four years.
"We talk. We pray," Brooks said. "I know he was trying to redirect his life. I've given him advice on that before."
When Kilpatrick published his memoir in 2011, he paid Brooks a visit on the roof to deliver about 50 free copies for congregants who had been convicted of felonies.
Brooks' rooftop vigil ended when movie mogul Tyler Perry pledged $100,000 to help the pastor buy and demolish the decrepit motel, a haven for drugs and prostitution. After surpassing the $450,000 needed to remove the motel, Brooks continues to raise money for a community center to go up in its place, a project he estimates could cost about $15 million.
Brooks said the money Kilpatrick received came from church members, not donors to the community revitalization project. He declined to say how he settled on the amount of $2,000 for Kilpatrick. He said it was a small portion of what the church gave to charity during the holiday season, but also declined to disclose that sum.
Brooks said his own children don't get gifts for Christmas, shopping for four or five needy families instead. The church also passes out turkeys, clothes and toys to families in need. This Christmas, he said, the congregation helped pay one young man's college tuition.
"Kwame was just one of many people we tried to help during the Christmas season," Brooks said.
The pastor kicked off his rooftop campaign the day 17-year-old Carlton King Archer was buried after being killed in a gang-related shooting. On Tuesday, Archer's mother, Kimberly Hopkins, said that while she questions Kilpatrick's behavior, she wasn't surprised by her pastor's nonjudgmental generosity.
"If you're in need and he can help you, he's going to help you," Hopkins said. "He doesn't look at you as garbage for what you've done. He don't look at that. He doesn't look at none of your past stuff. If you're coming to the Lord, you're good."