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Taylor mayor's aide reaches deal to plead guilty in corruption case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — An aide and campaign treasurer for indicted Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars has reached a deal to plead guilty in a corruption case, days after two co-defendants admitted their roles in a lucrative bribery conspiracy.

Taylor community development manager Jeffrey Baum is scheduled to plead guilty Nov. 30, according to a notice filed Friday in federal court. Details were not available and his lawyer Mike Rataj declined comment.

Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars (left) and aide Jeff Baum.

The plea deal means Sollars will stand trial on corruption charges alone in January amid allegations he received bribes, cashed campaign checks at a party store in exchange for cash and scratch-off lottery tickets while allegedly corrupting a city foreclosed property program. That is a perilous prospect in Metro Detroit where several public officials to stand trial and be convicted of federal corruption charges in recent years have been sentenced to double-digit years in prison, namely former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (28 years), Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds (17 years) and Detroit Metropolitan Airport official James Warner (10 years).

Baum was indicted in December 2019 on bribery conspiracy ( a five-year felony) and 18 counts of wire fraud, each of which carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Court filings describe a conspiracy in which Sollars and Baum allegedly helped developers obtain properties from June 2017 until February 2019 while the mayor received more than $80,000 in cash payments and Baum got $4,000.

The apparent plea deal comes after a flurry of developments in the corruption case. 

Real estate developer Shady Awad pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy Oct. 22 and admitted that he allegedly gave the mayor more than $53,000 in cash, appliances, home renovations and gambling money during a Las Vegas trip.

On Wednesday, developer and party store owner Hadir Altoon pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery, admitting he allegedly bribed Sollars with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, scratch-off lottery tickets and other items.

Baum, 46, of Allen Park was suspended with pay from his $71,000-a-year job on Oct. 6.

Sollars is innocent, his lawyer Todd Flood argued Friday.

“We anticipated Baum taking a plea. We saw that coming in the beginning of the case,” Flood said. “However, that doesn’t change our position as it relates to Mayor Sollars and his innocence.”

Sollars had to mount a write-in campaign for reelection last spring after he was tossed from the August ballot for failing to file campaign finance statements or pay fines. He mounted an unsuccessful primary write-in campaign for a third term and is trying again in next month's general election.

State Rep. Alex Garza and Taylor City Council Chairman Tim Woolley are the only mayoral contenders appearing on the city's Nov. 2 ballot.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews