Skip to comments.Corruption probe here broadens to 3 states (FIVE STATES now!!!) Oliver Spellman case
Posted on 12/08/2004 2:06:01 PM PST by weegee
Oliver Spellman, the Cleveland parks director under former Mayor Michael R. White, was charged Tuesday with accepting bribes from Beachwood consultant Nate Gray in exchange for political favors in Houston, where Spellman was the mayor's chief of staff.
The charges, along with interviews and court documents, show that a sweeping public corruption investigation focusing on Gray has spread beyond the borders of Cuyahoga County to Texas and Louisiana.
In Houston, Gray paid Spellman $2,000 and gave him a free hotel stay in Las Vegas and other gifts to land a contract for Gray's business, Etna Parking, to provide shuttle-bus service at Houston Intercontinental Airport, according to records filed by prosecutors.
Etna Parking has a similar contract at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Spellman also lobbied another unidentified Houston official to help Gray get a contract for Honeywell Inc., authorities said.
The charges do not identify Gray by name but refer to a consultant who met Spellman when the two worked in Cleveland. Prosecutors filed a document Tuesday that says the consultant who bribed Spellman is the consultant who they say bribed former East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor for contracts. Investigators testified in Onunwor's trial that Gray is the consultant who bribed Onunwor, but Gray has not been charged.
The charges against Spellman, 51, are the prosecutors' latest blows to Gray, the political consultant and parking magnate who made his name collecting contracts during White's administration.
In New Orleans, sources say, Gray is under investigation for his ties to Gilbert Jackson, a politically active consultant who was indicted this week on charges of evading taxes on more than $500,000.
In Cleveland, court documents say, Gray and an unidentified consultant bribed Cleveland City Councilman Joseph Jones in exchange for favors at City Hall. Jones was indicted last month.
In the East Cleveland case, Onunwor is to be sentenced next week and could get more than 10 years in prison.
Gray declined to comment Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors said Spellman, of Friendswood, Texas, was the chief of staff to Houston Mayor Lee Brown for 10 months in 2002, enabling him to "exert formal and informal influence over decisions in Houston to award public contracts," according to the charges. He resigned Oct. 24, 2002, citing personal reasons.
Today, he works as the chief of staff for a Harris County commissioner in Houston. Neither Spellman nor his attorney could be reached for comment. A spokesman for Houston Mayor Bill White, who took office in January, declined to comment. Brown, the former mayor, could not be reached.
Spellman was director of parks, recreation and properties in Cleveland in the mid-1990s. He left in 1998 to become parks director in Houston, bumping his pay from $86,755 to $105,000.
Four years later, Houston city records and interviews show, Gray's Etna Parking won the Houston airport shuttle-bus contract. But Gray lost out on the contract for Honeywell.
"We're aware of the federal investigation concerning Mr. Gray," said Mark Hamel, a spokesman for Honeywell. "We consider this a very serious matter, and we're cooperating fully with the federal prosecutor in Cleveland."
He said Gray worked as a contract consultant. He stressed that authorities have told the company that it is not a target in the case. Asked if any employees are, Hamel declined to comment.
Authorities are examining Gray's relationship with Jackson, vice president of Camp, Dresser & McKee, a national engineering firm. Employees in the firm's New Orleans office, including Jackson, have testified before a federal grand jury. The prosecutor who handled Jackson's case, Mary Butler of the U.S. Justice Department, is working closely with Cleveland prosecutors in the Gray investigation.
L. Eades Hogue, attorney for Camp, Dresser & McKee, said the business has cooperated with the grand jury and federal prosecutors in Cleveland, but he insisted that it was not a subject or target of the investigation.
It is unclear how Gray, 46, hooked up with Jackson, though they have been described as friends. In August 2003, Gray gave $2,500 to the campaign of Jackson's then-girlfriend, Lynda Van Davis, who won an Orleans Parish Criminal Court judgeship. The couple have since married.
Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed also contributed $250 to Van Davis' campaign. Reed said Jackson, a visitor to Cleveland in the past, asked for the contribution. Reed called Gray and Jackson his friends.
News researchers Cheryl Diamond and Jo Ellen Corrigan contributed to this story.
Ex-Brown aide faces Ohio bribery charge (Dec. 7, 2004, 11:20PM - Houston Chronicle)
(This thread contains a lengthy article from 2002 on Oliver Spellman)
Cleveland probe tied to local case - Wiretaps said to ID corrupt N.O. official (Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - New Orleans Times-Picayune)
Houston Corruption PING.
What political flavor are these people? Why is it not mentioned? Hmmmm?
They are (D)esperate people. A (D)en of theives.
City Hall is suffering from a Rat infestation.
Funny how this turkey manages to still get so much work. They certainly must have done a background check from time to time.
Read that first (Houston Chronicle) article. I link a story about a murdered lobbyist who confessed to doing drugs with city employees (and another article drops the names of some of the city administrators who have been caught using drugs). That lobbyist was investigated along with city council member Ben Reyes (who was convicted of taking bribe). The decision to drop the case against the lobbyist does little to convince me of his innocence (perhaps it would have compromised another prosecution or brought them too close to someone who was being protected from prosecution).
Where's the Michigan connection here? I saw this posted under the Michigan topic.
Prosecutors in Cleveland have said the wiretaps led them to a much larger web of corrupt activity in various locations, including New Orleans, Houston, Chicago, Detroit and California. According to a brief filed in the Onunwor case, the conversations helped investigators uncover evidence of a range of "corruption offenses and financial crimes," from wire fraud to extortion to money laundering.
This is one of the things that print journalism can do really well (better than online): show a map of the US with lines indicating the line of communication between these corrupt contractors and officials.
Also a sidebar list of the players and the scandals that they have been involved with in the past and what they are currently under investigation for.
Picture is worth a thousand words.
I will be extremely surprised if Houston's own daily (The Houston Chronicle) goes anywhere with this story. Houston's free "alternative weekly" may touch on it (they have covered this man in the past and some corruption but they still favor Democrats over Republicans and the seated mayor is their guy).
There is an online blog ( http://www.lonestartimes.com ) that is associated with the independent (non-Clear Channel) conservative talk radio station (the one that actually tries to change things). I might be able to prod them into looking into this story. They try to have daily content.
First I heard of this was last night when I saw a small article on www.chron.com. I looked up the Brown aide again today on news.google.com and ran across these other articles broadening the scope from just "Cleveland investigation of former city employee" to Cleveland, New Olreans, Houston, Detroit, California...
Who knows where this will end up. I must admit that I am more interested in the local aspect of this story but there is shared corruption among these cities.
The Det News is very RINO to say the least. However they don't care much for Eddie Mac so something MAY come up there - IF the ties are to Wayne County government. If it's city of Detroit, they might as well.
Another one, busted for laundering his money.
Corruption in Houston? Say it ain't so.