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Corrupt US mayors

ON THIS PAGE: Corrupt US mayors pose a threat to decency in society ||| Prominent cases of mayors misusing their powers and offices ||| List of American mayors who used their office to enrich themselves and/or their associatess ||| Other cases of mayors arrested, indicted and / or convicted for offences while in office ||| Data sources |||

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Corrupt US mayors pose a
threat to decency in society

Research by City Mayors*

April 2019: The preamble to the City Mayors’ Code of Ethics states that honest local government is the foundation of any nation that strives to provide its citizens with happiness, security and prosperity. It continues to say that corruption and misconduct by local government officials threaten fundamental decency in a society. America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which warns that public corruption poses a fundamental threat to national security and the US way of life, has over the past four decades brought to justice thousands of elected officials, who used their positions to enrich themselves. Among those convicted are leaders of some of the largest US cities, including Nashville, Detroit, New Orleans or Baltimore, but also many mayors from small-town America.

On 25 April 2019, FBI agents raided the homes of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh after she was placed under federal investigation over the sale of thousands of children’s books, written and self-published by her, to organisations that conducted business with the city. According to the Baltimore Sun, Mayor Pugh received $500,000 from the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) for 100,000 copies of the books that would go to schools while she was on the hospital system's board. In addition, health provider Kaiser Permanent said it had paid more than $100,000 for 20,000 copies of the books while it was negotiating a contract to become the medical insurance provider for Baltimore city employees. Mayor Pugh, who is currently on leave due to ill health, described the UMMS book deal a regrettable mistake and said she had returned a $100,000 payment. Catherine Pugh became the Democratic candidate for Mayor in 2015 after she defeated former Mayor Sheila Dixon in the primaries. Dixon was forced to resign after, in 2009, she was found guilty of fraudulent misappropriation.

In April 2019, former Reading (PA) Mayor Vaughn Spencer was sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery. A jury found the ex-mayor guilty of bribery and conspiring to solicit campaign contributions from companies in exchange for lucrative municipal engineering contracts. Spencer served as Mayor from January 2012 to January 2016.

Nashville (TN) Mayor Megan Barry resigned on 6 March 2018 after pleading guilty to theft. Court documents revealed that the Mayor had committed felony theft – theft of property of more than US$10,000. She was sentenced to serve three years probation and has also agreed to reimburse the City of Nashville $11,000. Earlier, Nashville City Hall’s former Head of Security, Rob Forrest, pleaded guilty to theft of property over $10,000. According to CNN, he agreed to serve three years supervised probation and to repay the city of Nashville $45,000. In January Mayor Barry admitted to an affair with Rob Forrest. According to Nashville’s District Attorney, the Mayor spent over $10,000 of city funds on Rob Forrest. Allegedly, Rob Forrest earned more than $170,000 in overtime pay while serving as Megan Barry’s bodyguard.

Also in March 2018, Allentown (PA) Mayor Ed Pawlowski was found guilty of 47 counts of rigging city contracts. During the trial, the jury heard that the Mayor gave city contracts to law firms and businesses that gave him money for campaigns for governor and US Senate. He retaliated against companies that refused to play along or didn't give sufficiently, according to prosecutors. The Mayor, who was re-elected to a fourth term in November 2017 despite the indictment hanging over him, claimed he was not aware campaign staffers and city employees were involved in an alleged pay-to-play scheme for kickbacks and campaign contributions. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The title of the most corrupt US mayor in recent years must go to Detroit’s Kwame Kilpatrick, who took office in 2002, promising to revitalise the city. Instead he used his position to steal from the citizens he had promised to serve. FBI Special Agent Robert Beckman, who investigated the mayor and his corrupt regime for eight years, said that criminal activity was a way of life for him. “He constantly used the power of his office to look for new opportunities to make money illegally.”

In July 2013, Kwame Kilpatrick was given a 28-year prison sentence for racketeering, extortion, bribery and fraud. In its submission the FBI said that Kilpatrick and his associates established a ‘pay to play’ system that made breaking the law standard operating procedure. “Kilpatrick extorted city vendors, rigged bids, and took bribes. He used funds from non-profit civic organisations to line his pockets and those of his family. And he was unabashed about it.”

Trenton’s (NJ) former mayor Tony Mack received a 58-months prison sentence in May 2014 after being convicted of extortion and bribery. Together with his brother Ralphiel, the former mayor operated a scheme of accepting bribes in exchange for assisting local businesses. A member of the US Attorney’s office told the court that within 10 weeks of moving into City Hall, the mayor started to sell influence. “Instead of providing transparent government to the citizens of Trenton, Tony Mack and his brother allowed themselves to succumb to self-interest and greed.”

Ray Nagin, who served as Mayor of New Orleans from 2002 to 2010, came to national and international prominence in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed large parts of the city. In 2009, three years after being re-elected to a second term, allegations began to emerge of the mayor using his office to obtain benefits from local companies supplying the city. In February 2014, a court convicted Ray Nagin of bribery and extortion. The court was told that the mayor took more than $500,000 n payouts from businessmen in exchange for millions of dollars' worth of city contracts.

The former mayor’s sentencing brought to a close a sordid chapter in New Orleans’ history in which the man charged with leading a city out of crisis instead chose to enrich himself, his family and friends. Despite New Orleans' long history of political corruption, Nagin was the first mayor to be criminally charged for corruption in office.

List of American mayors who used their offices
to enrich themselves and/or their associates

City, state, (population)
Year of conviction
Vaughn Spencer Reading, PA, (88,000) Bribery and conspiracy to solicit illegal campaing contributions 8 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $35,000 fine
Dwaine Caraway
Acting Mayor in 2011 and city councillor until 2018
Dallas, TX, (1.3 million) Corruption, fraud, tax evasion Sentenced to four years, eight months prison
Laura Jordan Richardson, TX, (117,000) Bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, Sentence to be announced, maximum 20 year in federal prison
James Snyder Portage, IN, (37,000) Bribery and obstruction of internal revenue law Sentence to be announced, maximum 10 years in prison
Edwin Pawlowski Allentown, PA, (121,000) Conspiracy, bribery and extortion as well as supplying the FBI with false statements Sentenced to 18 years in prison, followed by three years supervised release
Jasiel Correia:
Elected in November 2015; re-elected in 2017; lost a re-call in March 2019 but was re-elected at the same time
Fall River, MA, (87,000) In October 2018, charged with fraud and filing false tax returns. The mayor denies all charges. April 2019: No trial date yet
Megan Barry Nashville, TN, (684,000) Theft of municipal funds Three-year felony probation plus reimbursement of misappropriated funds
Robert Meyer New Roads, LA (4,600) Abuse of office 1 year felony probation and US$10,000 fine
Joey Torres Paterson, NJ (147,000) Corruption involving family members 5 years prison
Luis Aguinaga South El Monte, CA (21,000) Bribery and corruption 1 year prison
Ken Harycki Stillwater, MN (19,000( Conspiracy to defraud US government 1 year prison
Robert Porter Paintsville, KY, (4,000) Misuse of federal property and city resources 4 years prison and $4,000 fine
Tommy Nelson New Roads, LA (4,600) Conspiracy and fraud Found guilty in 2011, 10 year-prison sentence confirmed in 2016
Lucie Tondreau North Miami, FL (62,000) Mortgage fraud 65 months prison
Ruth Thomasine Robinson Martin, KY, (650) Vote buying, Identity theft, federal program fraud 90 months prison
Octavio Garcia Von Borstel Nogales, AZ (21,000) Fraud, theft, bribery and money laundering Three and a half years prison
George Grace St Gabriel, LA (7,200) Racketeering, corruption Initially sentenced to 22 years in prison; reduced to 20 years in 2014
Tony Mack Trenton, NJ (84,500) Corruption 58 months prison
Ray Nagin New Orleans, LA (369,250) Corruption 10 years prison
Patrick Cannon Charlotte, NC (793,000) Theft and bribery 44 months prison
Omar Leonel Vela Progreso, TX (5,700) Bribery and corruption 10 years prison
Bob Filner San Diego, CA (1.3 million) False imprisonment and battery Three months house arrest; partial loss of mayoral pension
John Bencivengo Hamilton, NJ (88,400) Corruption, bribery Sentenced to 38 months in prison
Kwame Kilpatrick Detroit, MI (701,500) Racketeering, extortion, mail fraud 28 years prison
Patricia Christensen Port St Lucie, FL (185,000) Theft of campaign funds Guilty plea agreement; probationary sentence
George Pabey East Chicago, IN (28,000) Conspiracy and theft of government funds 5 years prison
Dennis P. Elwell Secaucus, NJ (18,350) Bribery Prison
Eddie Price Mandeville, LA (12,400) Tax evasion, corruption 64 months prison
Larry Kangford Birmingham, AL (212,000) Bribery, fraud 15 years prison
Peter Cammarano Hoboken, NJ Extortion 24 months prison
Sheila Ann Dixon Baltimore, MD (621,000) Embezzlement Loss of pension
Sharpe James Newark, NJ (277,000) Fraud 27 months prison
Samuel Rivera Passaic, NJ (70,200) Attempted extortion 21 months prison
Emmanuel Onunwor East Cleveland, OH (17,800) Corruption and tax evasion 9 years prison
Anthony Russo Hoboken, NJ (52,000) Public corruption 30 months prison
Joseph Peter Ganim Bridgeport. CN (146,400) Kickbacks Prison
Vincent Albert Cianci Providence, RI (178,400) Racketeering 5 years prison
Betty Loren-Maltese Cicero, IL (84,000) Insurance fraud 8 years prison
Milon Milan Camden, NJ (77,300) Corruption 7 years prison
Raúl L. Martínez Hialeah, FL (231,900) Extortion and racketeering Jury deadlocked
Walter Tucker Compton, CA (97,600) Extortion and tax evasion 27 months prison
Charles Paniki Chicago Heights, IL (30,400) Bribery 10 years prison
Gerald McCann Jersey City, NJ (254,400) Fraud 2 years prison
Alex Daoud Miami Beach, FL (90,600) Bribery 18 months prison
Michael J. Matthews Atlantic City, NJ (39,500) Bribery 15 years prison
Edward McIntyre Augusta, GA (194,300) Extortion Prison
Angelo Joseph Errichetti Camden, NJ (77,300) Bribery 3 years prison
William Somers Atlantic City, NJ (39,500) Extortion n/a
Thomas Whelan Jersey City, NJ (254,400) Conspiracy and extortion 15 years prison
Hugh Joseph Addonizio Newark, NJ (277,000) Bribery Prison

Other cases of mayors arrested, indicted
and / or convicted for offences while in office:
• Mayor of West New York, NJ, arrested for computer hacking (2012)
• Mayor of Walnut Grove, Mississippi, for witness tampering (2012)
• Mayor of Upland, CA, convicted of accepting bribes (2012)
• Mayor of Nogales, Arizona, charged with bribery, theft and fraud (2012)
• Mayor of Cedarville, Arkansas, convicted of theft (2012)
• Mayor of Vicksburg, Mississippi, convicted of bribery (2013)
• Mayor of Junction City, Kansas, convicted of bribery (2012)
• Mayor of Melissa, Texas, indicted on bribery (2012)
• Mayor of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, arrested for bribery (2012)
• Mayor of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, indicted on bribery and extortion (2014)
• Mayor of St Gabriel, LA, indicted on racketeering (2010)
• Mayor of Ball, LA, convicted of hurricane disaster fraud (2011)
• Mayor of Sweetwater, Florida, convicted of corruption (2014)
• Mayor of South Pittsburg, TN, convicted of running illegal gambling business
• Mayor of Grandview, Missouri, convicted of charity fraud (2014)
• Mayor of Cudahy, CA, pleads guilty to extortion and bribery (2012)
• Mayor of Port Allen, LA, convicted of racketeering (2012)
• Mayor of Kinloch, Missouri, convicted for fraud and embezzlement (2011)
• Mayor of Mandeville, LA, convicted for tax evasion (2010)
• Mayor of Pineville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty to vote buying (2009)
• Mayor of Niagara Falls, NY, pleaded guilty to fraud (2010)
• Mayor of Hamilton, NJ, charged with attempted extortion (2012)
• Mayor of New Roads, LA, indicted on racketeering (2010)

*City Mayors used source material supplied by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Offices of the United States Attorneys

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