Taylor mayor: 'I can tell you that I am innocent'

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars speaks during his State of the City address on Feb. 21, 2019 in Taylor, just two days after the FBI raided his home and Taylor City Hall.

Taylor — Two days after after FBI agents searched his office and homes, Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars gave his State of the City speech Thursday, then proclaimed his innocence during a press conference.

“I can tell you that I am innocent,” Sollars said, standing next to his wife, Alicia, as he addressed reporters at the Lakes of Taylor Golf Club. “I can tell you that I will continue to deliver exactly what you saw in there, and I will continue to work on behalf of the people.”

During his speech, Sollars admitted it had been “a pretty tough week” and introduced his wife —  “the rock of my family” — and his oldest son, Carson, who, he said, had insisted on attending the address.

Sollars said he knew "very little" about the investigation and what he does know, “I really can’t say. What I do know, I’ve been advised not to discuss in any detail.”

Asked if he has been told he is a target of an investigation, the mayor said no.

Asked if he has obtained a lawyer for purposes of the probe, Sollars said. “I have an attorney who is giving me some guidance on the investigation. Todd Flood is giving me some guidance. He’s been retained for guidance."

FBI agents searched multiple locations Tuesday during a public corruption investigation, including the home and vacation property of Sollars, The Detroit News has learned.

The exact nature of the investigation was unclear, but the searches came amid questions about Taylor police officers pocketing vehicle inspection fees and allegations that Sollars and a city councilman received kickbacks from a towing contractor.

The raids are the latest crackdown on public corruption in Metro Detroit in recent years, a crackdown that has produced 17 convictions and led to federal charges against 22 contractors and public officials, including Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland.

FBI agents wiretapped towing titan Gasper Fiore's phone three years ago and heard allegations involving Sollars and a lucrative towing contract, according to sealed court records.

In May 2016, Fiore spoke during one wiretapped conversation to a man named Nicholas Primus. Primus described a recent lunch with the Taylor mayor, according to a wiretap affidavit reviewed by The Detroit News.

During the lunch conversation, Sollars referenced a municipal contract to tow vehicles in Taylor, according to FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman, who summarized contents of the conversation.

"Apparently, the mayor is leaving it up to (a businessman) and Fiore to work out who is the municipal tower for Taylor," Beeckman wrote in the wiretap affidavit.

Sollars, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, said he has met Fiore "but I don’t have any kind of relationship with him."

“When the towing RFP (request for proposals) went out, I’d have to look at the results. But I don’t believe he fit on it,” Sollars said. “I don’t know that he was trying or not trying, but I don’t think he submitted a proposal.”

Asked if he knows Primus, the mayor said, “I have no idea. I don’t even know anything about that.”

As reporters continued to ask questions, Sollars' staff ended the session and the mayor went back into the meeting of the Taylor Rotary Club, where he had given his speech.

City staff and Taylor Police prevented the media from re-entering the room, where member of the City Council, local judges and other municipal and school officials had gathered.