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7 City Of Detroit Inspectors Accused Of Corruption

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has announced 17 corruption charges against seven inspectors in Detroit’s building department.

Schuette on Thursday announced charges that stem from a lengthy investigation involving local, state and federal authorities.

Charged were 48-year-old Eric Miller of Detroit, 54-year-old John Jones of Detroit, 51-year-old Bob Watson of Dearborn, 56-year-old Phil Lockhart of Detroit, 51-year-old Kenneth Russ of Detroit, 53-year-old Moreno Taylor of Livonia, and 53-year-old Delos Matthews of Farmington Hills. The group represents about 10 percent of the department’s inspection workforce.

Click here to read the complaint (.pdf format)

Schuette said the current and former building, plumbing and electrical inspectors are accused of accepting bribes over the course of several years that range from $50 to $3,000. He described the scheme as “payola,” and accused the inspectors of “perpetrating a culture of corruption” that risked the “health and safety of Detroit residents.”

According to Schuette, the inspectors took the bribes to look the other way when construction projects endangered public safety, building code violations were found, and when the proper building, electrical, and plumbing permits were not obtained.

In some cases, the inspectors demanded bribes from local contractors and property owners, Schuette said, adding that some inspectors solicited and accepted bribes more than 50 times.

In one case, a corrupt inspector allegedly ignored kitchen wiring installed at the incorrect amperage, leaving a potentially dangerous fire hazard for future tenants unaddressed, Schuette said.

In another instance, a business owner needed city approval to change the use of his business, and a licensed architect’s drawing was required. Inspector John Jones, who was not licensed, allegedly drew up the changes himself and charged the business owner for it without revealing who did the work. He then allegedly told other city officials the property alterations were made and complied with city ordinances and other laws. In reality, the property changes were never made. For his conduct, Jones faces the additional charge of Misconduct in Office, a five-year felony.

“Public safety officials who accept bribes and ignore their duties undermine safety for everyone,” Schuette said in a statement. “Detroit needs more safety, not less, and that starts with public officials doing their job instead of lining their pockets.”

Schuette says six of the seven inspectors have turned themselves in and all are expected to be arraigned Friday in Detroit’s 36th District Court.

Following Schuette’s announcement, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing issued a statement thanking those involved in the investigation.

“When I became Mayor, one of my first priorities was eliminating corruption and restoring integrity and ethics to city government. Today’s announcement of bribery allegations issued against seven current or former inspectors in our Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) is another step toward eradicating unethical and illegal behavior,” Bing said.

Here’s how the charges break down:

Eric Miller – Two Charges

  • One count of a public officer accepting a bribe, a ten-year felony
  • One count of accepting a bribe by an agent or employee, a one-year misdemeanor

John Jones – Three Charges

  • One count of a public officer accepting a bribe, a ten-year felony
  • One count of misconduct in office, a five-year felony
  • One count of accepting a bribe by an agent or employee, a one-year misdemeanor

Bob Watson – Four Charges

  • Two counts of a public officer accepting a bribe, a ten-year felony
  • Two counts of accepting a bribe by an agent or employee, a one-year misdemeanor

Phil Lockhart – Two Charges

  • One count of a public officer accepting a bribe, a ten-year felony
  • One count of accepting a bribe by an agent or employee, a one-year misdemeanor

Kenneth Russ – Two Charges

  • One count of a public officer accepting a bribe, a ten-year felony
  • One count of accepting a bribe by an agent or employee, a one-year misdemeanor

Moreno Taylor – Two Charges

  • One count of a public officer accepting a bribe, a ten-year felony
  • One count of accepting a bribe by an agent or employee, a one-year misdemeanor

Delos Matthews – Two Charges

  • One count of a public officer accepting a bribe, a ten-year felony
  • One count of accepting a bribe by an agent or employee, a one-year misdemeanor.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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