Ex-Detroit IT official pleads guilty to taking bribes

Jennifer Chambers, and Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city’s ex-director of information technology services pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting more than $29,500 in bribe payments from two information technology companies providing services and personnel to the city.

Charles L. Dodd Jr., who had been with the city since December 2007, resigned on Monday. He appeared before U.S. District Judge Robert H. Cleland on Tuesday afternoon and pleaded guilty to one count of federal program bribery.

Dodd, 46, of Canton Township, agreed to the plea after working out a deal with the U.S. Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C.

In court on Tuesday, Cleland agreed to seal Dodd’s plea agreement and a transcript at the request of federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors later issued a statement, saying between 2009 and 2016, Dodd accepted cash payments totaling more than $15,000 and a trip to North Carolina, among other things of value, from an individual who was then the president and CEO of an information technology company.

Dodd admitted during that same time period, he also accepted more than $14,500 in cash payments from the CEO and an employee of another information technology company, prosecutors said. In return for these cash payments and other things of value, Dodd agreed to provide preferential treatment to the companies, he admitted.

Dodd was charged on Sept. 15 by prosecutors in lieu of an indictment, which means prosecutors did not seek a grand jury indictment in the case.

The crime is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Nicholas Connor, an assistant U.S. attorney with the Public Integrity Unit, told Cleland Tuesday that sentencing guidelines call for 37 to 46 months in the case and for Dodd to forfeit $8,500 in ill-gotten bribe payments.

In court, Dodd answered questions from the judge about his job at the city and the role he played in selecting contractors.

“You accepted cash payment from at least one person associated with contracting? You knew you were doing wrong?” Cleland asked Dodd.

“Yes, sir,” Dodd.

Dodd’s attorney, William Swor, told Cleland that Dodd did not have authority to select or hire a contractor but he persuaded other city officials to lean toward or away from contractors.

Cleland responded: “Same thing: Your opinion was valued and you sold a portion of your opinion for financial gain.”

Sentencing is set for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 9.

According to online city records, Dodd was an appointee and his salary was $142,466.

Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell issued a statement Tuesday, saying the city was made aware of Dodd’s plea agreement on Tuesday in which Dodd “admits to receiving improper payments from two city vendors beginning in 2009.”

“The administration has begun to address this breach of the public trust immediately. Mr. Dodd resigned from his position as of 9/26/2016. The city will begin proceedings to determine whether the companies should be permanently debarred as a vendor and the law department is reviewing all possible legal remedies against the vendors,” Hollowell said.

According to prosecutors, Dodd admitted he held numerous supervisory positions with the city in which he exercised discretionary supervisory authority over a staff of dozens of city employees and contractors.

He also told federal officials he held substantial influence over the administration of multimillion-dollar contracts between the city and private information technology companies.

Swor told The News on Tuesday that Dodd deeply regrets what he did, noting the money that exchanged hands was from the vendors and not designated for city use.

“These were vendors trying not to get cut during cutbacks at City Hall,” Swor said.

In 2008, Dodd began work with the city as deputy director of Information Technology Services. In February 2013, Dodd became director of Information Technology Services, and in March 2014, Dodd remained director of Information Technology Services while reporting up through the city’s chief information officer.

In November 2015, Dodd became director of Departmental Technology Services.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Dodd worked as an IT consultant for Compuware from 2004 to December 2006.