Feds indict former Madison Heights school leader, pal in bribery scandal

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A federal grand jury has filed a new indictment against Albert Morrison, former president of the Madison Heights District Public Schools Board of Education, alleging he received more than $560,000 in bribes and spent the money on personal luxuries, including Florida vacations and a boat slip.

The indictment, filed Thursday, accuses Morrison, 60, and Emergency Restoration contractor John David of conspiring in a bribery scheme that lasted from 2014-18. During Morrison's reign as president, David's company was awarded more than $3.1 million in school district contracts, prosecutors alleged and, in return, David, 64, of Troy issued checks to the school board president totaling $561,667, according to the indictment. 

Morrison is the latest public official charged with wrongdoing during a prolonged crackdown on public corruption. In recent years, federal prosecutors in southeast Michigan have charged more than 110 people with corruption crimes.

"Children and their parents deserve a school system free of corruption,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said in a statement. “Today’s indictment demonstrates our commitment to ensure that our educational systems put the interests of our kids first.”

Morrison's lawyer, Rhonda Brazile, did not respond immediately to a message seeking comment. A lawyer for David is not listed in court files.

"David admitted he had to 'pay to play' in the school district, and David’s companies received approximately $3,167,275 from the Madison District during the bribery conspiracy," according to the indictment.

The indictment was filed three months after prosecutors originally charged Morrison with tax crimes for failing to report more than $500,000 in income from the school contractor.

Morrison and David are charged with  bribery conspiracy and three counts of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and the bribery charge is a 10-year felony. Morrison also is facing four counts of tax evasion — a five-year felony — and four counts of failing to file tax returns, each punishable by up to one year in prison.

“It is important that contracts funded by our school systems be awarded through a fair and transparent process, not through deals funded by bribes to those in positions of power,” said James Tarasca, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit office.

Morrison tried to keep the payments a secret, prosecutors alleged.

He was confronted during a board meeting but denied having any ties to David or the contractor's company, prosecutors alleged. The duo also failed to disclose the payments to state auditors, according to the indictment.

Morrison failed to declare the bribery income to the IRS from 2014-18 and did not file tax returns for several years, according to the government. As a result, Morrison avoided paying approximately $118,200 in taxes.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews