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Topic: How the "Hottest Race" led to Flint's Crisis
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

continued:
In my opinion, there is an implied threat for other politicians throughout the article and especially in the last paragraph:

"political observers will be paying closer attention to the efforts of those working at the grass roots level and to the Concerned Pastors for Social Action".

The group passed out literature on the dy of the primary from the Jeff Wright 2000 campaign and some improperly designated literature that appeared to be from Vera Rison in favor of Wright.

There was also photos of campaign signage that lacked the required candidate committee identification. Francis Cleaves showed her azz at Cook School as she threatened and harassed people working for Prosecutor Arthur Busch. Seems she was angry that he had her son "Sluggo" in jail on drug charges. Sluggo was later murdered on the street.
Post Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:33 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

On June 25th the Courier reported on the front page that "Jeff Wright addresses the Concerned Pastors".

In that article, Jeff Wright pledged to use his office, if elected, to help revitalize the City of Flint. The article mistakenly identifies Hardin twice as being Republican.

"Mr. Wright emphasized the importance of the Drain Commissioner's office, declaring that it could be used to help or harm the City of flint. He explained how this office is used to drain business and residents away from Flint by making it possible for the county to develop farm land to better accomodate suburban growth or urban sprawl. Wright objects to such use because the effect of current Drain Commissioner Ken Hardin's policies hurts both the City of Flint and the suburban communities."


Last edited by untanglingwebs on Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
Post Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:48 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

"According to Wright the expansion of drain lines to the outlying suburbs decreases our valuable farm land, it spurs jobs to relocate to the outlying districts because of the newer development in suburbia. He warned that in the next five years there is a plan to spend two hundred and fifty million dollars (250,000,000) to develop water and sewer lines outside of Flint. Wright stated that "not one penny will be spent in Flint". '

Wright continued to allege that Hardin was not performing maintenance on sewer lines because he preferred expansion. Wright stated that instead of building a new upgraded sewer plant in Montrose, the county should have purchased additional sewage capacity from the City of Flint.

Note: Construction continued at both Montrose and Fenton under Wright. Flushing has their own sewer system and are not under control of the County. The worst sewer dump into the river occurred when a contractor roke a City of flint sewer line leading up to the City Sewer plant and Hardin helped contain it.
Post Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:05 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Hightower continued to try to build power among the pastors. Mayor Woodrow Stanley and the recall movement divided the community further.

On October 4, 2001, Hightower's renamed committee, Friends Committee Coalition 4 Community Awareness., released a press release announcing a boycott of the Flint Journal.The group alleged the Journal used divisive tactics, and "negative mis-use of the 1st amendment rights our country has accorded a free press." They also called for Publisher, Samuel, and editor, Keep, to " be removed from their position or resign and erplaced by persons of higher professional journalistic ethics and Flint good will."
Post Wed Jan 11, 2017 1:46 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

A month earlier, the NAACP also urged a Journal boycott. Journal reporter Marlon Vaughn wrote the story on 9/8/2001 (A3).

The trigger was a Journal Editorial on August 29th that called for Mayor Woodrow Stanley to resign. The Journal editorial "argued it would be in the city's best interests for Stanley to leave office, citing management and financial problems." Stanley criticized the editorial, "saying it's reactive stance ultimately hurts the morale of the community"
Hightower stated that while he didn't approve of everything the Stanley administration had done,he believed the Journal went too far.

"The Journal has awakened us. We had to have something to galvanize the black community" Hightower told Vaughn.
Post Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:09 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Journal editor Paul Keep was disappointed although not surprised. There were community leaders who proposed a boycott in 1999 after the mayoral race between Kincaid and Stanley, but it never materialized. Keep stated the group could have set up a meeting to discuss the issues.

Meanwhile, the NAACP statement alleged "inherent racism" in the editorial and insisted the Journal had become a 10th councilperson.

"I'm not surprised because in this town race is always raised as an issue, even when it is not an issue", was Keep's response. He insisted the mayor's job performance was the sole basis of the editorial "It is clear that he and these other groups would rather make us the issue."
Post Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:26 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

The October 14, 2001 edition of the Courier featured on the front page John Hightower's boycott story as well as the featured story of clergy uniting to fight the recall.

Hightower didn't miss an opportunity to label the group as "powerful" and tie his boycott to the actions of the pastors. "we feel that the Flint Journal's behavior is irresponsible and irrational and, some would even say racist, throughout this crisis, and the hateful personalities of the powers-that-be at the Journal influence very discussion that the newspaper has about our honorable Mayor." Hightower used the pastor's forum as a platform for his announcements.

Flyers for the event on October 5, 2001 also asked for donations.
Post Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:53 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

The press conference against the recall of Mayor Stanley was held at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, pastor Roy Greer, on September 14.

The largest event against the recall was held Sunday,September 30, 2001 led by Pastor Henry Fuller at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. It was said that 30 pastors of various denominations attended the Churches against the Recall event.

Speakers were identified as Rev. darrel Williams, Pastor of Mt. Vernon AME, Rev. Sylvester Miller, Pastor of Faith United Methodist, Rev. Danyel Griffin, Pastor of El-Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, and Rev. Seldon Williams, Pastor of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church.

Note: I remember some of the events being televised and I was deeply upset that Judge Archie Hayman was seated prominently behind the speakers. In my mind he was walking the line on judicial responsibility.
Post Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:34 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Hightower quotes an unidentified speaker:
"We elected the Mayor, and we're not going to let a bunch of folks who live in the suburbs take him out of office"
" This is more than about just Mayor Stanley, this is about the right to chose our own leaders."

Political Consultant Sam Riddle had been a critic of Mayor Stanley talked about the Flint Journal saying "the crass and disrespectful treatment of the Mayor had awakened a sleeping giant , much like they did in 1999 mayoral campaign. "They're doing 1999 all over again"

According to the Courier story, polls put Stanley behind Kincaid. They credited negative articles in the Journal and an editorial supporting his opponent for pulling the community behind Stanley for a victory.
Post Thu Jan 12, 2017 6:23 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

It appears that John Hightower attempted to become a political power to be reckoned with. He used his personna in the 2001 race for 3rd ward City Council by Norma Stevens. Her credentials were better than the majority of those who run for Flint offices and yet she lost.

Hightower used his address and phone number for the Friends of Norma Stevens. However he included his photo (a much younger photo) in an ad in the Flint Enquirer and felt it necessary to include the Jeff Wright slogan, "This is why we made the Wright Choice".

However the required campaign financial disclaimer went to another individual as Treasurer and a different address.

After reviewing some old campaign records, I was surprised to see Deb Cherry also paid John Hightower in a past campaign.
Post Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:39 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

The years leading up to the huge 2004 Burton corruption scandal were filled with fights on the city council, political lies and intrigues. During one election a political letter circulated detailing the extra marital affairs of one councilman and his excessive drinking. Council fought over an ordinance, renewed yearly, that paid department heads for unused sick and vacation days. There were accusations of bribes, campaign finance violations, sexual indiscretions and more.

Most importantly was the battle of councilwoman Laurie Tinnin against Mayor Smiley over the use of the city's excess ewer and water fund as well as bonds for water and sewer to benefit developers wanting to build in Burton by paying for the development of water and sewer infrastructure.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 4:44 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

At first, the building boom was viewed a a bonus for Burton. A houses were sold the water and sewer funds were returned to City coffers. Other communities were somewhat jealous and a Flint Township supervisor once told me they would probably do the same if they had the available fund. Even some communities down near Ann Arbor and Detroit were using the same type of stimulus for development.

Eventually it turned out that Tinnin was right to be anxious about the excessive bonding for new infrastructure, when the housing market fell apart and Burton and other communities saw their partially built subdivisions flounder and fail, while they still had to make the payment on the bonds for infrastructure. Burton is still paying off these bond and that is having a serious impact on their budget.
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 4:55 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Bribery case may snowball

Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com By Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com
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on December 24, 2004 at 4:25 AM, updated May 13, 2010 at 2:59 PM

BURTON, Michigan -- Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur A. Busch hinted Thursday that there might soon be more developments in the case in which a developer accused city and county officials of public corruption.

Busch suggested the developments could come before the end of his term Dec. 31, but would not comment about whether that means charges would be filed against public officials.

"Stay tuned. I think you can read the tea leaves, " Busch said.

Several officials were accused in court transcripts filed with Central District Court of accepting bribes from Burton developer Blake Rizzo. The transcripts were filed after Rizzo accepted a plea deal Wednesday to settle an insurance fraud case against him.

The transcripts containing the claims were from an Oct. 30, 2003, Rizzo interview with Busch and police investigators.

Rizzo, who pleaded to misdemeanor insurance fraud and bribery, agreed to talk with investigators about the corruption case to reduce four felony charges he was facing to misdemeanors. The felony charges could have netted him 28 years in prison.

Named as taking bribes from Rizzo were Burton Mayor Charles Smiley, City Administrator Charles Abbey, Genesee County Drain CommissionerJeffrey Wright and Burton Councilman Bob Centilli.

Smiley, Wright and Centilli deny the claims; Abbey could not be reached for comment.

The Flint Journal could not reach Rizzo or his attorney, Michael Manley, for comment Thursday afternoon.

The two bribery cases Rizzo was charged with related to Smiley and Abbey. The bribery charge related to Abbey was dismissed, and the one related to Smiley was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Smiley is accused in the transcripts of accepting "tens of thousands" of dollars in bribes from Rizzo in exchange for favorable treatment from the mayor on Rizzo's projects.

Busch said FBI officials know about the case, but he declined to say whether they are contributing to the investigation.

Meanwhile, David Leyton, who will take over Busch's job in 2005, said he likely would turn any investigation of the case over to the state attorney general's office.

"We're just not equipped to handle it, " Leyton said. "It would take thousands of man-hours, and with budget cuts, we just don't have that kind of staff."

Leyton said he also personally knows some of the people mentioned in the transcripts, such as political consultant Ken McArdle, Smiley and Wright, so it could be a conflict of interest for him to take on the case.

McArdle worked on Leyton's 2004 campaign.

Rizzo accused Smiley and Wright of having Rizzo pay for McArdle's services for their campaigns - $5,000 each for Smiley's campaigns in 1999 and 1995 and $5,000 or $10,000 for Wright's campaign in 2000.

McArdle said Thursday that the charges are untrue.

"Rizzo hasn't paid me any money to run Smiley's campaigns, " McArdle said. "Rizzo did ask me to get ahold of Jeff Wright (in 2000), but I ended up not working on Wright's campaign."

McArdle said he doesn't believe the bribery accusations against Smiley.

"Smiley is an awful good administrator, and I'm sure that Rizzo was willing to say anything, " McArdle said.

In the transcript, Rizzo also accused Wright of laundering $30,000 of the developer's money for campaign purposes through Wright's now-defunct Tara-Aqua Corp. Wright said during a news conference Thursday that the money was for legitimate consulting work he did for Rizzo, and he would turn over company records that detail the work if investigators request them.

Busch said he supports the decision to shift the investigation to the state attorney general's office, and said he's already talked with Attorney General Mike Cox about the case. Busch declined to detail the conversation he had with Cox.

Officials with the attorney general's office could not be reached for comment Thursday.


Last edited by untanglingwebs on Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:07 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 4:59 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

'Leak' probe demanded: Attorneys claim early release of bribe-case document violated law

Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com By Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com
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on January 12, 2005 at 4:28 AM, updated May 13, 2010 at 2:58 PM

FLINT, Michigan -- Two local attorneys - both of whom ran for office against former Prosecutor Arthur A. Busch - want an investigation into how the media got a document tied to a local corruption probe.

Raymond J. Branch and Barry A. Wolf want Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton to investigate the leak, which they say violated the law.

Burton developer Blake Rizzo claimed he bribed Burton Mayor Charles Smiley, city Administrator Charles Abbey, and Councilman Bob Centilli. He also accused Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wright of being involved with him in a money-laundering scheme. All four have denied the charges.

Rizzo was charged with felony bribery in the Smiley and Abbey cases, although the bribery charge related to Abbey was dismissed, and thebribery charge related to Smiley was reduced to a misdemeanor. Rizzo pleaded no contest to misdemeanor bribery and guilty to conspiracy to commit larceny.

Rizzo's accusations were contained in a document from an Oct. 30, 2003, interview with Busch, then still prosecutor, and police investigators.

The document was used as a basis for Central District Judge Mark McCabe to accept Rizzo's no contest plea. But Branch and Wolf said the document was given to some in the media before it was admitted in court - thus before it became a public document.

"I'm concerned about future investigations being leaked to the media, " Branch said, adding it would "compromise the integrity" of future probes.

He said he would like Leyton to hand the case over to state police or the FBI.

Channel 66 (WSMH-TV) started broadcasting stories about the Rizzo case, including general allegations of bribery, days before the developer appeared in court to make his plea.

The night before Rizzo appeared in court, the station used his own words from the statement he gave to investigators.

Jim Kiertzner, news anchor for Channel 66, said he won't reveal where he got documents related to the Rizzo case.

"Journalists do not divulge their sources -Ęperiod, " Kiertzner said.

Branch said the release of the document violates a state law that prohibits disclosure of material obtained under investigative subpoena. The document obtained by The Flint Journal - after Rizzo entered his plea - is labeled as being the result of a subpoena. But Busch told The Journal last week that it was not.

Wolf, who ran for prosecutor but was defeated by Leyton in the August primary, also wants to know how the document was leaked.

"How did this get to the media before it got to the court?" Wolf asked.

Branch and Wolf also would like Rizzo's accusations investigated so those accused can either be charged of exonerated.

"I don't have an ax to grind and no hidden political agenda, but this is a serious concern to the law enforcement community and the public in Genesee County, " Branch said.

Wolf said he has no political motive, either.

Busch said he does not know how the document was leaked.

"But I'm comfortable at this point that the leak did not come from the prosecutor's office, " he said. But he stopped short of saying the leak was criminal.

"At this point, there's a lot of politics being played with something that politics has no place in, " he said.

Leyton said the leak was "improper, ' but did not know if it was criminal.

As for either exonerating or charging anyone named by Rizzo, Leyton said the case remains under investigation.

Abbey said he is embarrassed by Rizzo's allegations and agrees officials should find out who leaked the document.

Wright would not comment on the calls to investigate the leak. He asked the county Board of Commissioners last week to give Leyton whatever he needed to charge or exonerate officials accused of bribery or money laundering in the Rizzo statements.

Smiley said he considers the transcripts "stolen property."

"I think it's a tragedy it happened that way, " Smiley said.

County Commissioner Ted Hammon, D-Burton, said an investigation is needed.

"The law has been broken. The investigators need to look into it, " Hammon said. "That needs to be pursued."
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:07 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com By Marjory Raymer | mraymer@mlive.com
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on January 05, 2005 at 4:18 AM, updated May 13, 2010 at 3:00 PM

GENESEE COUNTY, Michigan -- Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright says he wants new Prosecutor David Leyton to decide if there is merit to claims ofmoney laundering against him and bribery allegations against other Burton city officials.

"Give him whatever funding is necessary to clean this up, " Wright told the county Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. "I'm not afraid of the process. I welcome it."

But despite support from at least some commissioners, Wright didn't get an immediate answer Tuesday.

Leyton said he hasn't had enough time to decide whether to take over the investigation or refer it to the state attorney general or the FBI.

"Could I just remind you this is my second day on the job?" Leyton joked with commissioners, just minutes after he was sworn in to replace Arthur A. Busch as prosecutor.

Busch dropped the political bombshell days before leaving office, striking a plea deal with developer Blake Rizzo, who gave a sworn statement thathe bribed Burton Mayor Charles Smiley, City Administrator Charles Abbey and Councilman Bob Centilli in exchange for favorable treatment on his developments.

Rizzo also accused Wright of laundering money through the drain commissioner's now-defunct consulting company in exchange for favors.

All of the officials have denied Rizzo's claims.

Some commissioners said they want Leyton to wrap up the investigation, including Commissioner Woodrow Stanley, D-Flint.

"I know something about ... unsubstantiated charges, " said Stanley, the former mayor of Flint. "I don't want to wait. There are a lot of good people whose names have been besmirched."

Leyton said he would "seek justice" but offered no specifics. He previously suggested that the case be turned over to the state attorney general.

The new prosecutor said he will make the decision independent of pressure from commissioners or others.

"I'm going to review it ... (to determine) what's best (so that) the public will have full confidence in the procedure, " Leyton said.

Rizzo has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit larceny and no contest to bribery of a corporate official. He is set to be sentenced Feb. 16.

In an e-mail to The Flint Journal this week, Busch called the Rizzo case "an important matter, " but said it "is not appropriate to comment now as towhy a person is not yet charged with a crime or whether people may be charged."

"Both state and federal law enforcement have a sincere interest in this case. It is now the responsibility of prosecutor Leyton to guide this investigation, " Busch wrote. "I am confident he will do the right thing to make sure the serious allegations of wrongdoing by Mr. Blake Rizzo are further vetted."
Post Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:13 am 
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