Corrupt US mayors

ON THIS PAGE: Corrupt US mayors a threat to society ||| List of corrupt and convicted mayors ||| Other mayors indicted for offences while in office ||| Data source |||

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Corrupt US mayors pose a
threat to decency in society

Research by City Mayors*
March 2018: 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 hundreds of elected officials, who used their positions to enrich themselves. Among those convicted are leaders of some of the largest US cities, including Detroit, New Orleans or Baltimore, but also many mayors from small-town America.

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.

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 US mayors who used their office
to enrich themselves and their associates
City, state (population)
Year of sentence
Megan Barry Nashville, TN, (684,000) Theft of municipal funds 3 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
Ed Pawlowski Allenton, PA (120,000) Conspiracy, bribery, attempted extortion
Found guilty, March 2018, awaiting sentence
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
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
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
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 (52,000) 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
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
Angelo Joseph Errichetti Camden, NJ (77,300) Bribery
3 years prison
William Somers Atlantic City, NJ (39,500) Extortion
Thomas Whelan Jersey City, NJ (254,400) Conspiracy and extortion
15 years prison
Hugh Joseph Addonizio Newark, NJ (277,000) Bribery

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 local media reports

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