7 Detroit building inspectors accused of taking bribes

Michigan Attorney general says inspectors would ignore issues, write phony inspections

By Halston Herrera - Digital news editor

DETROIT - Seven current and former building inspectors in Detroit stand accused of taking bribes.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Thursday said the inspectors are facing together a total of 17 felony and misdemeanor charges.

They are: Eric Miller, 48, of Detroit, John Jones, 54, of Detroit, Bob Watson, 51, of Dearborn, Phil Lockhart, 56, of Detroit, Kenneth Russ, 51, of Detroit, Moreno Taylor, 52, of Livonia, and Delos Matthews, 53, of Farmington Hills.

They're scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

READ: Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department complaint

Schuette said bribes ranged from $200 to $3,000 and the inspectors would ignore issues that violated codes or document phony inspections that never happened. They would also "look the other way" when proper permits weren't issued.

In one case, an inspector allegedly ignored kitchen wiring installed at the incorrect amperage, leaving a potentially dangerous fire hazard.

In another instance, a business owner needed city approval to change the use of his business, and a licensed architect's drawing was required. 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.

On July 2, the FBI, armed with a warrant and sealed affidavit, walked into the city's Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department and started carting away computers, records, keys and other data as part of a joint federal and state task force.

"These inspectors perpetrated a culture of corruption in Detroit that put the health and safety of families in Detroit in danger," Schuette said.

Previous story: Detroit building inspectors expected to be charged

Statement from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

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.  I want to thank the FBI and State Attorney General's office for their diligence in pursuing these allegations.  However, today's action in no way indicts the thousands of dedicated, city employees who perform their jobs with honesty and integrity daily. Likewise, BSEED continues to be committed to enforcing city codes and protecting the safety, health and welfare of our citizens.

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