2 separate lawsuits say Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland sought bribes

Image 1 of 9

A Detroit businessman claims Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland demanded free drinks, free food and free admission to his club in return for a promise to get city officials off his back.

Scott Bridgewater, an owner of the now-shuttered Centre Park Bar in downtown Detroit’s Harmonie Park, says Leland and one of his associates received more than $5,000 in booze, food and perks. Bridgewater sued Leland Monday, accusing the District 7 councilman of extortion.

Bridgewater’s extortion claim marks the second time in four months that a Detroit businessman has accused Leland of demanding cash or goods in return for Leland’s help in a dispute with city officials.

Bob Carmack, who owns an auto repair shop on West Michigan Avenue, sued Leland in March.
Bridgewater says he has witnesses who can confirm that Leland demanded free food and booze.

Carmack says he wore a wire for the FBI and caught Leland on hidden camera demanding $15,000 cash to help with his re-election campaign. 

Leland, through attorney Steve Fishman, denies any wrongdoing. No criminal charges have been brought against Leland.

Bridgewater and Carmack’s claims differ in that Bridgewater says Leland demanded goods, rather than cash. But both men say Leland also sought services – free admission to Bridgewater’s club and free repairs at Carmack’s garage. They each also said Leland either did not try or did not succeed in helping them in their battles with city officials.

A city spokesman dismissed both Bridgewater and Carmack’s claims against city officials as baseless.
The lawsuits against Leland, filed in U.S. District Court, are just the latest matters raising questions about Leland’s ethics.

I revealed last year that Leland voted to approve contracts with companies owned or managed by his then-girlfriend that were worth more than $2 million. Detroit Police Chief James Craig also says he contacted the feds last year after he had what he described as an uncomfortable conversation with Leland in which Leland seemed to be fishing for information about a law enforcement investigation into towing contractors.

Detroit Councilman Leland uses 5th Amendment in lawsuit deposition
Detroit businessman says councilman extorted him
Questions swirl around meeting Detroit councilman had with police chief
Detroit councilman votes for contracts worth $2M to his girlfriend's company

Leland had been dating Jennifer Fiore, the daughter of towing mogul Gasper Fiore, who has since pleaded guilty to public corruption charges.

To hear more of Bridgewater’s claims – as well as the denial of the Leland associate Bridgewater accuses of also accepting free goods and services – check out my latest Problem Solvers investigation in the video player above.

Contact M.L. Elrick at ml.elrick@foxtv.com or 248-552-5261. Follow him on Facebook at “ML Elrick,” on Twitter @elrick or on Instagram at “ml_elrick.”