DETROIT (WJBK) - I'm usually not interested in the private lives of public officials, but when millions of dollars' worth of taxpayer money is on the line, I make an exception.
For more than a year, I've been keeping an eye on the romance between Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland and Jennifer Fiore, the daughter of one of southeastern Michigan's most influential contractors. But Jennifer Fiore is more than just Gasper Fiore's daughter; she's a lawyer and executive in some of the Fiore family's companies.
My investigation found that while Leland was on the city council and dating Jennifer Fiore, he voted for at least four contract extensions or amendments for Fiore family companies worth $2 million. Leland was elected to represent the city council's 7th District in 2013 and is running for re-election this year. Jennifer Fiore acknowledged that she dated Leland from late 2014 to early 2017.
At the time Leland voted for the Fiore-related contracts, Gasper Fiore was also an executive in the companies that the city paid to remove snow from city streets or lease property to the Detroit police department. If Gasper Fiore's name sounds familiar, it may be because a federal grand jury indicted him in May on bribery and fraud charges for allegedly paying a Clinton Township trustee to support a towing contract for Fiore's companies. Fiore entered a not guilty plea and is free on bond.
No one is accusing the Fiores of bribing Leland, but a constitutional scholar says the councilman should not have voted for contracts that benefitted his girlfriend. Wayne State University Law Professor Robert Sedler says Leland's actions were unethical and undermine trust in government.
Leland declined multiple times to discuss his relationship with Jennifer Fiore and his family, telling me a half dozen times that it was a personal matter. He acknowledged, however, that an elected official voting on matters involving someone with whom he or she is romantically involved is a matter of public interest.
You can see Leland dodge my questions yourself in my latest Problem Solver investigation for Fox 2 Detroit.
Contact M.L. Elrick at 248-552-5261 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook at "ML Elrick"; on Twitter at "elrick"; and on Instagram at "ml_elrick"
When I'm not holding public officials accountable, I'm telling distinctive stories from Detroit in my Chapter 10 series. Check them out at http://www.fox2detroit.com/chapter-10