Detroit pension fund attorney Ronald Zajac suspended without pay

Board votes to oust Zajac after bribery, conspiracy charges surface

DETROIT - The general counsel of a Detroit pension fund was suspended Monday without pay after being charged with bribery and conspiracy involving more than $200 million in investment.

The General Retirement System board members voted to remove Ronald Zajac of his role. An interim counsel will be appointed.

Zajac and Paul Stewart, a former trustee of Detroit's Police and Fire Retirement System were charged last Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade added Zajac and Stewart as defendants in a superseding indictment that already had charged former city Treasurer Jeffrey Beasley and investment sponsor Roy Dixon with the bribery and kickback conspiracy

Details of Zajac's alleged bribery conspiracy

According to McQuade's office, Zajac served as the general counsel of Detroit's two pension funds, the General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System, from 1982 through 2012.

In November 2012, the Board of Trustees of the Police and Fire Retirement System terminated Zajac as general counsel. Zajac still served as the General Counsel of the General Retirement System.

According to the 13-count superseding indictment, between January 2006 and April 2009, Zajac and Stewart conspired with Beasley, Dixon, and other individuals to defraud current and retired employees of the city of Detroit of their right to the honest services of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Beasley, Stewart, and other Trustees free from bribery and corruption. During the the conspiracy, Stewart accepted thousands of dollars in cash, trips, entertainment and other things of value from people seeking investments from the Police and Fire Retirement System.

Stewart accepted a $5,000 casino chip, a Christmas basket that included an envelope with thousands of dollars in cash, a cash payment of $2,500 during a trip to New York City, a cash payment of $2,500 during a trip to Florida, an excursion to the Bahamas for Stewart and his mistress, and a trip to Naples, Florida for Stewart and his mistress.

In addition, Stewart accepted a "birthday present" of $5,000 in cash at a party at the Atheneum Hotel.

Zajac organized the party, and Zajac solicited and collected the cash from people having business before the Boards of Trustees of the pension funds. Zajac also collected and delivered an additional $5,000 in cash for a second pension fund trustee at the same party. At a party in January 2007, Zajac collected and delivered thousands of dollars in cash for former Treasurer and Trustee Beasley.

Zajac accused of bribery to raise money for Kilpatrick Civic Fund

Also during the conspiracy, Zajac sought to curry favor with Beasley and former mayor Kilpatrick by raising more than $70,000 for the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

Zajac directed and forced people having business before the pension funds to spend thousands of dollars to entertain trustees of both pension funds. Zajac forced an investment manager to pay more than $10,000 for limousines for trustees during a trip to New York City.

Soon after giving Beasley, Stewart, and a third trustee thousands of dollars in cash at their "birthday parties," the trustees voted to give Zajac a substantial raise as General Counsel of the two pension funds. As a result of the raise, Zajac was receiving over $400,000 in compensation per year from the pension funds.

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