August 18, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Prosecutors: 'Megalomaniac' former Detroit library exec deserves 15 years

Timothy Cromer (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Detroit— Former Detroit Public Library executive Timothy Cromer is a “megalomaniac” and “con man” whose $1.5 million kickback scheme should earn him a 15-year prison sentence, argued the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a filing Monday.

The cash-strapped system had to lay off staffers and close buildings in part because of losses tied to Cromer, whose colleagues likened his intimidation tactics to the “Gestapo” and nicknamed him “Slippery Tim,” according to investigators and library officials.

Cromer, the library’s former chief administrative and technology officer, secured nearly $5 million in fraudulent contracts for two IT companies, which in turn paid him $1.5 million in kickbacks, investigators allege.

The library work could have been completed for less than $150,000, technology experts would later tell officials.

“It takes someone of particularly low character to see an institution as rich with history and essential to the community as the DPL only as an opportunity for self-enrichment,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Elizabeth Stafford wrote. “It took a megalomaniac like Cromer.”

“... Cromer’s corruption was uncommonly egregious, both in terms of the level of deceit and the amount of public money that he converted into a personal slush fund.”

Cromer of West Bloomfield Township was a library executive from 2006-13, when he lost his $145,323 a year job after an FBI raid of the system’s main branch and his home. He pleaded guilty in April to bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 16.

Cromer’s attorney, Ben Gonek, didn’t return a call for comment Monday. In April, he said his client was “prepared to pay restitution” and wants to “accept responsibility for his actions.”

The government alleges Cromer helped co-defendant James Henley create a business, Consulting & Professional Services Inc., in 2007 and urged him to bid on a network infrastructure contract despite the fact “Henley knew nothing about that field.”

Henley would learn only after the contract was approved that Cromer worked at the library, according to the filing.

Cromer also helped Ricardo Hearn, the owner of Cubemation, get a contract for Web design, after he agreed to pay Cromer a kickback of 33 percent of the profit, officials said.

Prosecutors also allege Cromer manipulated other library officials, including the woman who helped hire him, former executive director Nancy Skowronski, who retired in 2009.

Cromer created “an atmosphere of fear and intimidation,” according to the filing. “He was described as a ‘Gestapo,’ threatening employees to toe the line.”

cmacdonald@detroitnews.com