Taylor mayor: 'Facts will dispute any false information that’s out there'
Nearly a year after federal authorities started investigating him for allegations of racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering, Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars is speaking out and professing his innocence.
In a taped interview posted on his mayoral campaign’s Facebook page, the Downriver politician said he planned to challenge the allegations that have surrounded him.
“There’s no doubt that I’ll fight it,” Sollars said in the clip on Monday, discussing possible charges. “I’m confident … the facts will dispute any false information that’s out there.”
Sollars has not been charged with any crimes. It was unclear what prompted the sit-down interview with former WDIV-TV reporter Kevin Dietz, who left the station last summer.
Sollars’ attorney did not respond to a request for comment on the remarks or whether Dietz was paid.
City officials could not reached for comment. A FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the video remarks.
In the 20-minute piece, the mayor addressed questions about the ongoing corruption investigation that emerged publicly in February, when FBI agents raided City Hall, Sollars’ home and cottage, as well as the residence and office of a city contractor. Investigators seized campaign records and $206,493 from Sollars and later raided the home and business of a second businessman.
During the City Hall search, investigators were hunting for records linking the mayor to property management owner Shady Awad, records involving the mayor's personal and campaign finances, and his casino activity, according to search warrant records obtained by The Detroit News.
Awad has also contributed heavily to Sollars’ campaign, Wayne County campaign finance statements show.
Sollars told Dietz he was not directly involved in hiring Awad and his company, Realty Transition, to work with the city of Taylor to rehabilitate foreclosed and distressed properties. The mayor denied an improper relationship with Awad and defended his work as helping turn around blighted buildings.
He also denied taking bribes or gifts from trash mogul Chuck Rizzo and towing titan Gasper Fiore, who have both been serving time in prison following convictions in a political corruption scandal that has netted other businessmen and officials.
When asked about the owner of a Metro Detroit towing company who in a lawsuit alleged Sollars wanted to steer city towing contracts to Fiore, the mayor said: “What I told Shane Anders was the same thing that I told many vendors in the city of Taylor that had exclusive rights to contracts. And my position was: we’re going to do our best to have two of everything, not one of everything. That message was conveyed to Shane Anders loud and clear, and as a result, he began to distance himself from me.”
When asked about the money investigators seized, Sollars also told Dietz some of it was from gambling wins in Las Vegas and he reported the windfall to the IRS.
Sollars, a successful businessman, said he and his wife, Alicia, who sat beside him during the interview, worked hard to pay for their vacation chalet in Lenawee County that federal prosecutors want to seize. The feds have filed liens to have the approximately $600,000 worth of real estate forfeited to the government upon conviction, which Sollars said has left the family “paralyzed.”
“We are not rich by any means, but the way that this has been portrayed in the media — I mean, it’s awful,” Alicia Sollars said.
Rick Sollars also denied misusing campaign funds and said he expected to drain his life savings to defend himself. He and his wife also said the spotlight since the scandal has affected their three children.
“It’s not fair, it’s extremely painful, but it’s also an opportunity to prove to people that if you’ve done the right things for the right reason, then stand up and fight for those things,” Sollars said.