Two former public servants in metro Detroit are going to prison in unrelated federal corruption probes — a former school board president in Oakland County accused of tax evasion and bribery and an ex-Wayne County Roads Division worker for conspiring to defraud the county of more than $2.3 million.
Albert Morrison, 62, ex-president of Madison District Public Schools, was sentenced to 45 months in prison Thursday after he was accused of tax evasion and taking bribes from a contractor in a pay-to-play scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
A day earlier, Kevin Gunn, 65, of West Bloomfield, was sentenced to 32 months in prison after he pleaded guilty in January in the Wayne County probe that involved the unauthorized purchase of generators and power equipment.
Pay-to-play in the school district
U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said after Morrison's sentence that it "underscores our continued insistence that our trusted public officials hold themselves to the highest standards of integrity and honesty. It sends a clear message that when public officials break that trust, they will be held accountable. This sentence ensures that school officials will put the interests of our children first and that those who accept bribes and evade paying taxes will answer for their crimes."
Morrison pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery from 2014 through 2018 and tax evasion in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
He was school board president from 2012 through 2018. While president, his longtime friend, co-defendant John David, was an owner of Emergency Restoration, also known as Emergency Reconstruction, a building maintenance and reconstruction company. The business was awarded more than $3.1 million in maintenance and construction projects in the school district, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Federal prosecutors said David wrote more than $550,000 in checks from his company to Morrison's company, Comfort Consulting, from 2014 through 2018, and Morrison deposited the checks into his own bank account.
The investigation found $561,667 in payments from David to Morrison. David admitted he had pay-to-play in the school district and his companies received more than $3.1 million from the district.
Vacations, cars and bullying
Federal prosecutors said Morrison spent the money on vacations in Florida, including Key Largo and SeaWorld, as well as a boat slip. He also spent it on a Camaro 2 and Dodge Ram; more than $54,000 in residential rent; fast food, bars and corporate restaurants; dentist and veterinary visits, and shopping at Costco, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, jewelry stores, party stores and gas stations, according to a sentencing memorandum prosecutors filed.
Morrison denied having financial ties to David or Emergency Restoration when he was publicly confronted during a school board meeting in 2017, prosecutors said. Morrison was indicted five years later.
In their sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors said he bullied school administrators who tried to find out why Emergency Restoration was receiving all the work.
David, 65, pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery from 2014 through 2018 and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. He was sentenced in August to 24 months in prison and is to surrender to prison Dec. 5, according to court records.
Prosecutors said the men failed to disclose to state auditors the payments Morrison received from David. Morrison also didn't declare to the IRS David's payments to Comfort Consulting as income from 2014 through 2018, prosecutors said, and he didn't file a federal income tax return from 2015 through 2018. Morrison avoided paying about $118,200 in taxes.
"Instead of using his power to preserve the limited money allotted to the district, he allowed himself to be corrupted by the power," federal prosecutors wrote of Morrison in their sentencing memorandum.
Generators to generate personal cash
In Wayne County, prosecutors said Gunn and colleague John L. Gibson, 54, of Detroit used taxpayer money to make unauthorized purchases of generators and other power equipment from retailers in southeast Michigan. Then, they sold the equipment for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The county Sheriff's Office started investigating the possible misuse of taxpayer money in March 2021 and enlisted the help of the FBI. The county Prosecutor's Office got a search warrant, breaking open the case and uncovering the embezzlement scheme, federal prosecutors said.
They said Gunn solicited county vendors to buy generators and other equipment the vendors were not authorized to provide under their contracts with the county from January 2019 through August 2021. Gunn told vendors to list only the items they were authorized to sell as part of their contracts on their invoices.
Road division employees approved and paid the invoices with taxpayer dollars. Gibson then took possession of the equipment, paid Gunn for the items and resold the equipment to the public, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Vendors bought 596 generators and other power equipment items, including lawnmowers, chain saws and backpack blowers, with a total value of more than $2.3 million. The items were never provided to or used by the county.
Gibson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program, according to a plea agreement in July. He is to be sentenced Nov. 27, according to court records.
In August, Gunn and Jazmine Bass, 32, of Westland, were charged with larceny over $1,000 but less than $20,000 by the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which alleges they stole more than $4,000 in county funds in a separate scheme while employed in the roads division.
Gunn was Bass' supervisor in the bridges department. Gunn is accused of diverting county workers who were paid overtime and took county-owned building materials to build out Bass' store, Romulus Nutrition.
Contact Christina Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @challreporter.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Albert Morrison, Kevin Gunn sentenced for corruption