Mayors accused of corruption and drug taking... it's all in a day's work at City Hall
What is it about the role that attracts people who are prone to corruption once they reach office?
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Sunday 10 November 2013
Last Monday, agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation descended on City Hall in Greenbrier, a small town near Nashville. They were there to arrest the mayor, Billy Wilson, and to charge him with stealing $60,000 (£37,500) from a charity that provides toys to underprivileged children. Back in August, the mayors of three Miami suburbs were arrested on corruption charges. Florida's governor, Rick Scott, suspended Steven Bateman of Homestead, Michael Pizzi of Miami Lakes and Sweetwater's Manuel Marono pending criminal cases against all three. And on Tuesday, Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto, finally confessed to having smoked crack cocaine – and excused his behaviour by insisting he'd been blind drunk at the time.
What is it about the role that attracts people who are prone to corruption once they reach office? Is it that they suffer less scrutiny than governors and presidents? Or is it because they wield greater power than either, albeit on a smaller scale?
Though mayoral misadventures are a recurring feature of US and Canadian history, the arrests, trials and scandals accumulated here are from the past year alone. It's enough to make you thankful that the mayors of the UK's own major conurbations are so squeaky clean.
Elected October 2010
The Conservative Mayor of Canada's largest city admitted last week that he had smoked crack cocaine, months after reports surfaced of a video of Ford sampling the drug, and days since Toronto police revealed they had seized said video. Instead of resigning, as both enemies and riends recommended, Ford, 44, took the opportunity to launch his campaign for re-election next year. No stranger to scandal, he was ejected from a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey game for public drunkenness, and was accused of groping a woman who ran against him for mayor. On Thursday, a further video emerged in which Ford appeared to threaten to murder an unnamed rival.
Elected December 2012
Ejected August 2013
The former mayor of San Diego's history of wandering hands allegedly stretches back to his previous two decades as a US congressman. The 71-year-old pleaded guilty last month to charges of false imprisonment and battery involving three women, but at least 19 have gone public since July, claiming that Filner sexually harassed them with pats on the backside, licks on the cheek or his signature "Filner headlock". They include several US servicewomen whom he met as a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, and who had been raped during military service. Reluctantly resigning in August, Filner claimed to have been the victim of a "lynch mob".
Elected January 2002
Ejected September 2008
Last month, Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison for racketeering and extortion, burnishing his reputation as the "hip-hop mayor" only in so far as his life story reads like a cautionary rap lyric. At 31, he became the youngest ever mayor of Detroit. Yet his tenure was coloured by corruption, as he siphoned off city funds and had an affair with one of his aides, which he lied under oath to cover up. He resigned in 2008, was sentenced to four months for obstruction of justice, and has been in and out of jail ever since. Critics claim that the corruption scandal over which he presided contributed to the city's bankruptcy.
Elected November 2012
Ejected June 2013
After his predecessor Gérald Tremblay resigned under a cloud of corruption allegations, Michael Applebaum's fellow councillors put him forward to serve as interim mayor of Montreal. Applebaum, 50, stepped up to the plate promising to "erase the stain" on the city. Instead, a few months later, he was arrested in connection with a separate corruption scandal, and charged with 14 counts of conspiracy, fraud and breach of trust. Furthermore, it emerged last week that Applebaum, a former real estate agent, is implicated in at least suspect 10 property transactions going back to 2002. Applebaum denies the charges.
Elected June 2010
When Tony Mack took charge of New Jersey's state capital, he replaced a mayor who had served 20 years in the post. Mack was in office for only 18 months before he had to fight off a recall attempt, with critics accusing him of cronyism and corruption. One city business administrator resigned and pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges. The mayor's housing director quit after a previous conviction for theft came to light. His chief of staff was accused of trying to buy heroin. And his half-brother pleaded guilty to official misconduct after using city workers for private business. Mack is under investigation by the FBI for bribery, fraud and money laundering.
Oscar Hernandez Bell
Elected March 2009
Ejected March 2011
Bell is a tiny, working-class suburb of Los Angeles, but home to a whopping great scandal. In 2010, the LA Times revealed that city officials were earning substantially more than the average. Chief administrative officer Robert Rizzo, for example, had a salary of about $800,000. Mayor Hernandez, who had charged the city $9,000 for his hair transplant, claimed the Times had a "skewed view of the facts". When police arrived at his home to arrest him, he refused to answer the door, so they broke it down and led him away in handcuffs, charging him with misappropriation of public funds. Hernandez refused to resign, but was recalled in March 2011.
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