Mayor disputes existence of ‘culture of corruption’ in Dayton

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Dayton City Commissioners held their first meeting since the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office announced federal indictments against several former and current city officials.

A citizen, Bishop Richard Cox, came forward to address the Mayor and City Commissioners about the issue, questioning how the city’s government could have been unaware of the alleged corruption. The Mayor gave a statement during closing comments, as did City Manager Shelley Dickstein and the other Commissioners who were present:

During that City Commission meeting, officials did pull from the agenda the approval of a $960,000 road construction contract amidst an internal review.

Mayor Whaley met with media Wednesday night, telling 2 NEWS that she disputes the claim by the Department of Justice about an alleged “culture of corruption” that exists in the city of Dayton.

“Certainly I disagree with that,” she said. “But we are doing everything we can, any corruption we find, we’re going to do what we can to make sure we root that out. We’re supportive of the City Manager’s efforts, like I said earlier today, to make sure that we do our processes already internally and will work in full coordination with the Attorney General’s Office and FBI.”

Whaley said she has no knowledge of being under investigation by the FBI, but added she would not release that information if she was.

Whaley declined to say whether she’s been in contact with investigators.

“We’re going to work in full coordination with the FBI, so I can’t really talk a lot about it,” she said. “I don’t really know a lot.”

Mayor Whaley echoed her statement released Tuesday that she learned of the federal indictments through the media.

Whaley spent several years working alongside former Commissioner Joey Williams, one of the four men indicted.

“I enjoyed working with Commissioner Williams, and I’m really saddened by this news,” Whaley said.

Mayor Whaley said she and the city will cooperate with federal investigators and stands by the city’s manager’s efforts to organize an independent review of the city’s contracts.

“There are people in the system, in any system, that have issues, and so these processes, we continue to learn, we continue to make our processes better, as we’ll continue to do,” she said.

On Wednesday, the principal players in the case remained tight-lipped after being indicted on federal charges.

Attorneys for former City Commissioner Joey Williams, current city employee Roshawn Winburn, and former State Representative Clayton Luckie did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Williams is accused of taking bribes in return for construction contracts from the city. Federal authorities allege he directed government funding to minority-owned businesses that did not do the required work.

Businessman Brian Higgins’ attorney claimed on Tuesday night he has nothing to do with the accusations against the other three:

It is unfortunate that the government decided to make it look like Mr. Higgins has any relationship with the cases against Williams, Winburn and Luckie. He has nothing to do with those accusations other than apparently being accused by the same contractor that accuses them. We cannot speak on the accusations this person makes against others, but Mr. Higgins previously reported this contractor to authorities for fraud. We will be reviewing very carefully how this contractor has convinced authorities that he is not actually the one to have committed fraud. 

The Dayton City Manager is opening an independent investigation into the allegations, after the FBI claimed the city fostered “culture of corruption.”

On Wednesday, City Commissioner Matt Joseph released his own statement, saying in part: “I’m shocked and angry. I would much rather spend my time as a public servant working to bring good jobs to Dayton and making the city a better place to live and work.”

He went on, “For the time being, my job and the commission’s job is to find any other bad actors involved and bring them to justice, then fix any processes that are broken.”

In a statement released Wednesday evening after the Commissioner’s meeting, Commissioner Chris Shaw said:

It is hard to find the right words for this. We are all disappointed. However, I will let the legal process play out before casting judgement.

This City is full of devoted employees who work every day to provide high quality services to the residents of Dayton and we will continue to do so. I am committed to fully supporting the independent investigation, the City Manager, this Commission and our employees.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley released a statement Tuesday evening, saying: 

I, like all City employees, learned of today’s indictments involving City officials through the media. I, like many Daytonians, am sad for our City. The City will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities and I support the City Manager in a thorough investigation of the City’s processes to protect all Dayton residents.

Commissioner Darryl Fairchild also released a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying:

I’m unsettled by the allegations revealed yesterday. Like many residents, I recognize these allegations raise important questions and diminish trust. My faith instructs me not to gossip, which I understand to mean not to speak beyond what I know. Therefore, I will be respecting our principle of due process.  Given the current public facts, I believe it is unfair, unprofessional, and prejudicial to characterize Dayton-area politics, which would encompass Representative Turner, Mayor Whaley, and myself, as “a culture of corruption.”

Going forward,  I fully support the City Manager’s decision to hire a law firm to independently review our contracting process. I commit to maintaining the review’s independence, addressing any issues discovered, and restoring the trust of our residents.

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