Sarah Hulett

Assistant News Director

Sarah Hulett became Michigan Radio's assistant news director in August 2011. For five years she was the station's Detroit reporter, and contributed to several reporting projects that won state and national awards.

Sarah considers Detroit to be a perfect laboratory for great radio stories, because of its energy, its struggles, and its unique place in America's industrial and cultural landscape.

Before coming to Michigan Radio, Sarah spent five years as state Capitol correspondent for Michigan Public Radio. She's a graduate of Michigan State University.

Contact Sarah Hulett at

Update 6:54 p.m.:

Here's some video of the release of the indictments from the Detroit News:

Update 4:28 p.m.:

Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, had this to say of the new indictment:

“The indictment charges all of them with working together to abuse Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices. Both his position as state representative, as well as his position of mayor of Detroit, to unjustly enrich themselves, through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud.”

Update 4:18 p.m.:

Here's an excerpt of the indictment (info in parens added):

"(Former Detroit Mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick, (Kilpatrick’s long-time friend) Bobby Ferguson, (Kilpatrick’s father) Bernard Kilpatrick, (former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) Victor Mercado and (Chief Administrative Officer then Chief Information Officer to Kilpatrick) Derrick Miller… extorted municipal contractors by coercing them to include Ferguson in public contracts, and/or by rigging the award of contracts to ensure Ferguson got a portion of the revenue from those contracts…. Ferguson got tens of millions of dollars in work and revenues from municipal contractors."

Update 3:39 p.m.:

Federal Prosecutors in Detroit are announcing more corruption charges against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The indictments also include Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.

Representatives from the FBI, IRS,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development are also on hand for the announcement.

The new charges are a sign the years-long investigation into Detroit municipal corruption is approaching an apex.

Peter Henning is a Wayne State University law professor. He says this investigation has been typical of public corruption probes that slowly “work from the outside in.”

“The government’s committed a lot of resources. When that happens then it’s much more likely to see charges brought, simply because the government wants to see some return on its investment.”

Kwame Kilpatrick already faces federal tax evasion and other charges for allegedly using a non-profit civic fund as a personal slush fund.

Ferguson also already faces federal charges in an alleged city bid-rigging scheme.

3:27 p.m.:

The other shoe is finally dropping on former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.   The US Attorney in Detroit is holding a news conference at 4pm to announce indictments against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and others allegedly involved in city hall corruption in Detroit.

The Detroit News is reporting:

The U.S. Attorney's Office is considering prosecuting the mayor under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, among other federal criminal laws, according to a source. The Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section reviews and approves each proposed federal prosecution under the RICO statute. 

So far, 14 people have pleaded guilty to felonies and one person has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the Detroit investigation and a spinoff probe in the city of Southfield. Those convicted include former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.

flickr user Joe Gratz /

A conservative group has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to hear a challenge to union dues paid by home-based child care providers.

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder
wikimedia commons

Governor-elect Rick Snyder told a crowd in Detroit today that Michigan will beat analysts’ economic growth expectations in the coming years.

Snyder spoke to a group of accounting students at Wayne State University. He recounted an experience at a recent National Governors Association meeting.

Snyder says the investment firm Moody’s ranked each state for projected job growth. He described what he saw when he opened the folder for Michigan.

"The first number from 2009 to 2011 was 47," Snyder said. "The number from 2009 to 2014 was 50."

But the governor-elect called those projections "a piece of fiction."

"We’re going to beat the living daylights out of that number."

Snyder added that he plans to use his background as a CPA to put Michigan’s finances in order.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The future of Detroit will be the subject of dozens of meetings in the city early next year.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there are seven to nine sectors that will see investment. But his deputy in charge of the Detroit Works Project, Karla Henderson, says it’s too early to define their boundaries. She says:

"What we do know is that some of our stronger neighborhoods tend to be the boundaries of the city of Detroit, and some of our neighborhoods where we’ve seen an increase in population are immigrant communities," said Henderson. "So we’re taking a look at all that data. "

Henderson says her team is looking at things like household incomes and education levels, as well as “quality of life” indicators like parks and schools, to determine the most viable neighborhoods. She says federal grants will be used to rehab city-owned and foreclosed homes in those areas.

Salt trucks
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Counties all over Michigan are gearing up for another winter plowing season with higher costs and fewer resources.

Wayne County has outfitted about 20 trucks with new side plows that allow crews to make fewer passes to clear snow-covered roads.

Michael Rogers is the Roads Division director for Wayne County. During a demonstration of the equipment, he pointed out an innovation that will save on salt costs. The county has rigged up its trucks to wet the salt as it’s being spread on the roadway.  

You see the salt doesn’t necessarily make it all the way over here, to us. And that’s what you want. You want the salt to get on its intended target, and that’s what it’s doing. Because before the salt would’ve been ten feet back there, and that’s a waste of our resource.

Ten years ago, Wayne County had 726 people working for the Roads Division during the winter months. This year it has a little more than 330.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

A panel that’s drafting a new governing charter for Detroit will hear recommendations from the city’s mayor and city council this weekend. 

The Charter Revision Commission is looking at everything that has to do with how Detroit operates: How many elected officials the city should have, and how much power they should wield. How to remove elected officials from office. How many departments the city should have, and what services should be mandated.

One issue on which the mayor and city council disagree is how big the city council ought to be. 

There is agreement that the city should move away from its current system of electing members at-large, and have most council members represent districts. But Mayor Dave Bing thinks the council ought to remain at nine members, while the city council is pushing to expand it to 11. 

The Charter Revision Commission is expected to have a draft document finished in March. A citywide vote on the charter is expected next November.

The Commission meets Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

The White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Michigan's unemployment rate in October was the second-highest in the nation, at 12.8%.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers released a report that touts the need for extending benefits. The report says for the typical person getting unemployment, the benefits make up a third of the household income.  As Presidential adviser Cecilia Rouse noted:

And in those 42% of households where the unemployed person was the sole wage earner, it's about 90 percent of the income. So it's quite an important source of income for these families.

The report says about 620,000 people in Michigan received benefits through October.

Republicans in Congress say the cost of extending the benefits is too high. They want to look at budget cuts and tax cut extensions first.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is imposing a 20 percent pay cut on union employees.

The move comes after two years of negotiating failed to yield an agreement. Earlier this year, Ficano instituted unpaid furlough days after the union rejected a proposed 10 percent pay cut.

Joyce Ivory represents about a thousand workers with AFSCME Local 165. She says a state labor board ruled against that move, but Ficano pressed forward anyway.

The Detroit Public Schools system has filed an unfair labor practice against the district's teachers' union over a substitute teacher dispute.

The president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers issued a letter to some substitutes last month telling them to stop drafting lesson plans, grading students, and holding parent-teacher conferences.

Businesses in Hamtramck, Michigan
Ian Freimuth / creative commons

The city of Hamtramck is ratcheting up the pressure on the state to allow it to file for bankruptcy.

Hamtramck’s city attorney has sent a letter to Governor Granholm urging her to issue an executive order allowing the city to seek federal bankruptcy protection. The letter also says appointing an emergency financial manager would not give the city the tools it needs to correct its financial problems.

Detroit entreprenuer Judy Davids
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

All week we’ve been looking at the reinvention of Pittsburgh. Now, we move west to see whether the ideas that worked there can work in other places. One such city is Detroit.

Like Pittsburgh, Detroit has always faced a challenge in convincing its talented citizens to stay. Many business owners try to buck the odds and keep their businesses in the city, only to find the hurdles too high. Others find it is simply too daunting to head out on their own.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

People who live near Detroit’s massive Marathon Oil refinery came out as part of a national protest against a proposed pipeline in the western U.S.

The Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline would transport heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. That’s the same type of oil the Detroit plant is being retrofitted to be able to process.

The city of Hamtramck says it will run out of money at the end of January, and officials have taken the unprecedented step of asking the state for permission to file for bankruptcy.

Bill Cooper is the city manager of Hamtramck. And he says he’s been a little surprised at the uproar his letter to the state has caused.

"That one little word got a lot of attention," Cooper said, sitting in his city hall office as the phone rang with a call from a reporter.

The word: Bankruptcy.

(lky luciano/Google Creative Commons)

DETROIT, MICH. (Michigan Radio) - A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments tomorrow in a suit challenging the firing of a medical marijuana patient.
Joseph Cassias was fired from a Walmart in Battle Creek a year ago after he tested positive for marijuana.
Dan Korobkin is an attorney for the ACLU who's representing Cassias. He says employers from across the country are watching the case.

Cooley High School Detroit
user chuckjav / Creative Commons

Detroit Public Schools officials are working to educate developers on strategies for purchasing and re-using closed school buildings.

The school system will host a workshop later this month in collaboration with an historic preservation non-profit. Potential buyers will get information about possible uses for the buildings, as well as information about tax credits, codes and the purchase process.

Karen Nagher heads Preservation Wayne. She says school buildings can be a great buy:

Macomb County will be represented by a county executive for the first time, starting in January. 


County Sheriff Mark Hackel was elected to the post – which voters approved as part of a new county charter last year. 


Hackel says Macomb County and the southeast Michigan region stand to benefit from the change.


 "I think it provides a lot more stability and the first to set forward a vision or an agenda for the county itself. We’ve never had that opportunity before," Hackel said. 


(Sarah Hulett, Michigan Radio)

Governor-elect Rick Snyder met this morning with the woman he'll replace in Lansing.

Snyder and Governor Jennifer Granholm shook hands and posed for pictures in front of reporters before the meeting.

"A lot of hard work in the next couple of months," Granholm said, "but I appreciate the commitment to working together that you've continually professed. I think that's going to be healthy for Michigan. Our team stands ready to do whatever it takes to make sure this is a smooth transition."

(Sarah Hulett, Michigan Radio)

If you walk into a gas station or a party store in the city of Detroit, you might see a flyer taped up, advertising "help with gas and lights."

But the phone number probably won’t connect to a charity program or aid organization. More likely, it’ll put you in touch with a fixer who will help you steal electricity or natural gas.

Trying to shut the problem down is a team of investigators from DTE Energy. Every day of the work week, they embark on what seems like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.

Outside Detroit City Hall
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A suburban businessman has pleaded guilty to a felony as part of the federal government’s investigation into a bid-rigging scheme that involved a close friend of Detroit’s former mayor.

Brian Dodds is a subcontractor from Howell, west of Detroit. He told a federal judge he submitted an inflated bid for demolition work on a public housing project so that Bobby Ferguson’s company would appear to have the lowest bid.