By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Mayor Rick Sollars told the media, “I am not guilty!” after his Feb. 21 State of the City address, following a Feb. 19 FBI search of his office and homes.
Following the annual city progress report during a luncheon at the Lakes of Taylor Banquet Center, Sollars met briefly with the media.
Sollars acknowledged that the media wants more information, but said that there was not much he could offer at this point.
“We will continue to work through this, and you guys will be made aware of any changes information as it changes and evolves,” Sollars said.
Sollars declined to speculate on the names of people who may be involved with him coming under federal scrutiny.
The Detroit News reported Feb. 21 that the FBI raided the home and office of city contractor and Realty Transition owner Shady Awad Feb. 19 in Allen Park. Awad has formed a partnership with the city of Taylor to rehabilitate tax foreclosed homes to return them to the tax rolls.
Sollars, who has been photographed with Awad, said he has a “professional, working relationship” with him. He said this year a Request for Proposal for home rehabilitation was sent out, the city received 10 replies, with a committee reviewing the proposals and recommending Reality Transition to the city council.
Sollars said at this point he has an attorney who is giving him guidance.
When standing ovations before and after the State of the City speech was noted as an indication that his constituency wants to believe he is honest, trustworthy and not corrupt, he was asked if he would confirm he is above reproach.
“I can tell you that I am innocent, and that I will continue to deliver what you saw in there, and I will continue to work on behalf of the people,” Sollars said, referring to his State of the City message.
Sollars said he has very little information about why search warrants were executed on his office, home and vacation property.
“What I do know I have been advised not to discuss in detail,” Sollars said.
Sollars said he has not seen or heard from Gaspar Fiore of years. He said he has met him, but does not have any type of relationship with him, and does not recall talking to him on the phone.
The Detroit News reported Feb. 20 that Fiore, former owner of Boulevard and Trumbull Towing, has been sentenced to federal prison for bribing politicians while building his towing business, and Sollars’ name was allegedly mentioned between Fiore and an unnamed person during an FBI wiretapped phone conversation.
Sollars said he did not think that Fiore ever submitted a towing proposal to the city of Taylor.
“I don’t know that I even talked to him,” Sollars said. “I am innocent.”
Mara Schneider, a special agent of the FBI task force and a public affairs officer, said the afternoon of Jan. 19 that the FBI is conducting a number of search warrants related to an ongoing investigation.
“We have a number of agents and task force officers who are conducting search warrants at city hall,” she said. “There are a number of different agencies involved in our task force.”
There have been no arrests due to the past week’s investigation.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])