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St. Clair Shores

November 8, 2012

Former city manager hospitalized with apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

A week after tendering his resignation, former City Manager Ben Hughes was hospitalized with a reportedly self-inflicted wound at McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said deputies were called to the Brittany Park Apartments off of Shook Road just east of I-94 just before 5 p.m. Nov. 7.

“A neighbor saw the individual walk behind the Dumpster, thought it was suspicious, she contacted the manger of the apartment complex … (and) the maintenance worker found him and immediately called 911,” he said.

Wickersham said the man, whom he would not identify, appeared to be the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

City Hall and the St. Clair Shores Public Library were closed the morning of Nov. 8 as city employees were called and notified of the incident.

Acting City Manager Mike Smith said the city’s employee assistance program was on hand to help those who have worked with Hughes in the past deal with their emotions.

“Now, at this point, we have counselors here for individual sessions if people feel the need,” Smith said. “The impact on the city is that I’ve got 244 people who have suffered a loss all at the same time. Ben’s not gone … but you feel like it. It’s hard.”

Smith said Hughes was in a medically induced coma in intensive care at McLaren Macomb hospital in Mount Clemens after undergoing surgery for the shotgun wound to his upper chest and shoulder. His wife and family were with him.

“We’re just taking a wait-and-see approach,” Smith said.

“I am, and the city are, deeply saddened by the report of Mr. Hughes’ hospitalization,” Mayor Kip Walby said Nov. 8. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

The incident happened just a week after City Council unanimously accepted Hughes’ resignation during a special meeting Nov. 1. Walby said Hughes was not present at that meeting.

“We wish him well, wish him success in his future endeavors,” said Walby Nov. 2.

Hughes, hired in March 2010, earned an annual salary of $115,000 and lived in the city.

City Attorney Robert Ihrie said council voted to give Hughes a severance package of six months’ insurance coverage and four months salary continuation. Smith, who was the assistant city manager under Hughes, was named acting city manager while St. Clair Shores searches for a new person for the post, which could take four months or more.

The city has contacted search firms to make presentations to City Council so members can decide which is best to assist the city. Then, Walby said, the chosen firm will provide himself and City Council with candidates to choose from.

Smith has been with the city of St. Clair Shores for a little more than seven years.

“Ben was a great city manager. He and I worked very closely together, so I really don’t anticipate any issues,” he said Nov. 2. “We’ll make sure that all the work continues to get done.”

The city has moved forward under Hughes’ direction, Walby said.

“The last two-and-a-half years, we’ve had successful years in aspects of budgeting, adding to our rainy day funds, and several projects have been successful and moved the city forward,” Walby said. “It’s unfortunate, change is hard.”

But he said the city would continue its momentum.

“We have good department heads, we’ve got strong leaders throughout the community. Mike Smith has been involved a number of years with the city,” he said. “I’m confident that we’ve got a good group of department heads and a good group of people. At this point, we expect no other changes.”

Walby said Hughes’ contract expired in early October and they had had several meetings about it since then.

“They’re going to pitch in, they’re going to keep moving everything forward,” Smith said of city staff. “Whoever gets the city manager job is going to be very lucky to inherit a great staff working for a great city.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.