By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN – Robert Watson, a candidate for city council on the August primary ballot, is facing charges of bribery and could face up to 22 years in prison if convicted. The charges were filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and were announced on August 29.
Watson, 51, is one of seven current and former Detroit building, plumbing and electrical inspectors facing bribery charges. He is being charged with two counts each of a public officer accepting a bribe (a 10-year felony) and accepting a bribe by an agent or employee (a 1-year misdemeanor).
Watson was arraigned in the 36th District Court before Magistrate Sidney Barthwell Jr. on August 30. His bond was set at $20,000, ten percent and he is due back in court on September 11.
In a press release regarding the charges, Schuette said that the inspectors were charged “for allegedly accepting bribes to look the other way when construction projects endangered public safety, building code violations were found, and when the proper building, electrical, and plumbing permits were not obtained.”
“Public safety officials who accept bribes and ignore their duties undermine safety for everyone,” Schuette said. “Detroit needs more safety, not less, and that starts with public officials doing their job instead of lining their pockets.”
He added that the bribes ranged from approximately $200 to $3,000 and that “some inspectors solicited and accepted bribes in exchange for disregarding building violations more than 50 times” since 2008, when the FBI-led Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force in collaboration with the Michigan Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit began its investigation.
The others inspectors charged were Eric Miller, 48, John Jones, 54, Phil Lockhart, 56, and Kenneth Russ, 51, of Detroit, Moreno Taylor, 52, of Livonia and Delos Matthews, 53, of Farmington Hills.
Watson is a licensed building official and residential builder throughout Michigan and has worked for the city of Detroit for the past 13 years. He is also a chairman on the Dearborn Demolition Board of Appeals.
On August 6, Watson was one of 21 city council candidates vying for one of the 14 available spots on the November ballot. He finished with the fewest amount of votes and did not advance.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])