Lawmaker lawbreaker: Detroit representative lies about housing situation

- You hear it all the time: Politicians will say anything to get elected, but you can usually trust that they at least live where they say they do.

Bettie Cook Scott is the exception. She claimed she lived in one city to get a tax break while running for office in another city more than 70 miles away. When problem solver M.L. Elrick set out to find the truth, he got a big surprise.

Bettie Cook Scott swears that she lives in Lexington. At the same time, she swears that she lives in Detroit. If you think that's crazy, get this: Her neighbors say neither claim is the truth.

M.L.: "Where are you living these days? You know you've got a property tax exemption that says you live out in Lexington, but the neighbors say that you don't; you've got a house on Three Mile that's all burned up; and you say you live on Gravier, but the neighbors say you don't live there. Don't your constituents deserve some answers?"

The only thing harder than figuring out where this politician lives is getting her to answer a straight forward question.

Cook Scott: "I'm not dead. They came to me thinking I was dead. On Gravier."

M.L.: "We know you live. We know you live. We just don't know where you live."

Cook Scott: "Shut up. I'm not dead."

It's hard to tell just where Cook Scott lives. Her candidacy papers say she lives there, and she's registered to vote there.

"I've never seen her," another neighbor said.

Cook Scott applied for a property tax break on a home she bought seven years ago in Lexington. She even registered her cars there.

There may be a method to Cook Scott's residency madness. She has saved more than $6,000 in property taxes by claiming that she lives in Lexington; registering her cars there could save her even more on insurance.

But to hold office in Detroit's second district, Cook Scott needs to live in the second district. And, whaddya know, this apartment is in the second district. These aren't the only addresses Cook Scott has used.

When M.L. didn't get a call back, it was time to hit the street, starting with the home Cook Scott owns on Three Mile Drive.

City officials say the house burned nearly a year ago and since Cook Scott hasn't paid all the property taxes, Wayne County could foreclose on it, meaning her problem, could become your problem.

Multiple neighbors said they "don't know," or haven't seen her.

"She's never lived there. I've been here for two years," said Carmelita Luchie, who lives next door. "If she's saying this is her house, it's a lie. If you would lie about something as small as where you live, what else are you going to lie about?"

Cook Scott has also lived in a home just outside the second district. We found signs she was here and signs we weren't welcome.

She won the Democratic nomination in the heavily Democratic second district. That means she's a shoe-in to become a lawmaker. But is she a lawbreaker?

In 2011, she told the Michigan treasury that she was entitled to a break on her property taxes because 4828 Three Mile Drive in Detroit was her principal residence. She said her second home was on Peck Road in Lexington.

Michigan law only allows homeowners a break on one residence.

Two months later, after the treasury rejected her bid, Cook Scott told Lexington officials that her primary residence was in Lexington -- and not the home on Three Mile Drive in Detroit.

Cook Scott's neighbor said she has never lived in the Lexington home.

Lexington clerk Katherine Calamita says the township will investigate because the tax break Cook Scott got has cost public schools about $1,000 a year.

"Basically the school loses out on taxes. it reduces them drastically," she said. "You would like to have your money back, because it helps operate the school."

I had just about given up on catching up with Cook Scott when I decided to try her latest home one more time.

Cook Scott: "And who are you?"
M.L.: "Ms. Cook Scott, it's M.L. Elrick from FOX 2."
Cook Scott: "Go away."
M.L.: "Why won't you talk to us? Ms. Cook Scott, will you please come to the door? You want to represent the district, why don't you want to talk to the people who live here? They say you don't live here."

M.L.: "Ms. Cook, will you please come to the door? why are you doing this? You want to represent this district. what are you afraid of? Ms. Cook Scott, this is not the way elected officials are supposed to act."

Investigative reporters have an old saying that when a public official gives you bull, they get the horn (Actually, I just made that up.)

M.L.: "Would you mind coming out so we can have a professional conversation? Maybe, more, I don't know, more standard discourse."
M.L.: "Would you please return my phone calls?"

I've known Cook Scott for more than a decade. She apparently forgot that I never give up. And so, a few days later, we met on the street.

M.L.: "Ms. Cook, please. Last chance to tell the truth. where do you live? Why won't you tell people where you live?"
Cook Scott: "I'm going to your bosses now."
M.L.: "You have cheated the taxpayers and the children of Lexington. Drive legally!"

Now this all may seem very silly to those of you living in places where your lawmakers are your neighbors -- you know, the way it's supposed be. But to folks who feel disenfranchised, this is no joke. They feel like their voices are seldom heard, and that no one cares. Well, I care.

And on the off chance that you do, too, I'm turning the mic over to Carmelita Luchie.

"Do not let these people run for office or be any type of representatives, because if they can lie to us about something as simple as where they live, just imagine -- and that's something that's so minute -- so just imagine about what they could lie about period," she said.

Now you're probably wondering "Why was Cook Scott in that apartment if she doesn't live there?"

Neighbors say her son lives there and that she just started showing up last month.

One of the co-op's owners told me Cook Scott does not live there, is not supposed to live there and if she tries to move in, she'll be thrown out.


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