A telling little scene played itself out Thursday outside the mayor's office.
Kirk Lewis, the deputy and fill-in mayor, was to give the first briefing about the state of the city and the mayor's health since Mayor Dave Bing disappeared two weeks ago.
Bob Warfield, the mayor's communications director, emerged from behind the oversized door to address the assembled reporters.
"The mayor is going to come out and answer questions you have on the consent agreement," he said.
Val Clark, the brassy reporter for WXYZ-TV, got the question out before I could.
"The mayor's going to come out?" she asked, giving extra attention to the word mayor.
To which Warfield replied: "He's the acting mayor so he is (the mayor)."
And so goes the palace intrigue of Dave Bing.
During the most important two weeks in the city's recent history -- as the state was negotiating the financial takeover of the Motor City -- Mayor Bing was missing in action.
The official story was explained like he had a common head cold.
First he went to the dentist, suffered some discomfort and was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Turns out Bing had surgery. The public was fed a line that it was not so serious and the mayor would return to work in a few days.
Days turned into two weeks. Turns out, the 68-year-old mayor suffered a perforated colon. We were then told he was working from his hospital bed.
His office offered few updates and no pictures of the patient as the city's future was being negotiated without him at the table.
The second Monday came around and we were told Bing was discharged from the hospital and working from the mayoral residence, the Manoogian Mansion.
But Bing wasn't at the mansion when I went there. So I drove to his home in Oakland County to see if he was there. I couldn't tell. He lives in a gated community.
Two days after I filed that report, Bing was standing in the doorway of the Manoogian in a T-shirt, looking frail and gaunt, waving to a TV camera. A photo op in journalism parlance.
Hours later, I witnessed Mayor Bing rushed back to the hospital with what was again officially described as "discomfort."
The discomfort turned out to be blood clots in his lungs, perhaps loosened by his Weekend at Bernie's manhandling during the week.
Lewis, at the Thursday news conference, maintained Bing was still the mayor and calling the shots. But I talked to Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday and he said he hasn't had a recent conversation with Bing. He said he was negotiating with Lewis about the consent agreement, union contracts and the like.
Now I'm told Lewis has been spotted tooling around in the mayor's motorcade. He shouldn't get too used to it. If the mayor cannot go on, the job and the car would temporarily go to City Council President Charles Pugh. Thankfully, Pugh would get the chauffeur cop too, considering his driving history.
I wonder if anybody actually loves Dave Bing? Is there an aide loyal to him? Who made the decision to present him in the Manoogian doorway looking little better than a disoriented homeless man dropped off in a strange town?
The shouts from the public chorus have been that Detroit should be run by officials elected by the people. But nobody voted for Lewis.
Lewis, remember, was fired months ago by Bing for disloyalty only to be brought back because Bing had fired too many people and had run out of choices. Same goes for Warfiled, a retread from the early days of Bing's administration. The whole episode is eerily similar the last days of Yuri Andropov, the former leader of the Soviet Union, who went ignored from his hospital bed while his underlings snatched at power.
It's getting awfully difficult to believe the message being piped out of Dave Bing's hospital room. We're told he'll be back at work by the end of the month. Let's hope so because the last thing the city needs now is an absence of leadership.
KDFW FOX 4
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