ML Elrick's 2018 in Review - local lawmakers behaving badly

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Holding public officials accountable takes a lot of time and this year FOX 2 investigative reporter ML Elrick was busy. 

He held a lot of them accountable, here's a look back at some of his biggest reports.  Local lawmakers behaving badly have kept me busy for years...

Now some of those lawmakers -- and a major behind-the-scenes political player -- are in the federal government's cross-hairs ...

State Senator Bert Johnson's chronic problems paying his bills may have contributed to his decision to hire a ghost employee.

The Highland Park Democrat was sentenced to three months in federal prison for using taxpayer money to pay off a woman who loaned him thousands of dollars.

By the time Johnson settles into a federal prison cell, Detroit city councilman Gabe Leland could still be getting ready for trial in a federal courtroom. A grand jury indicted the district 7 councilman for allegedly extorting thousands of dollars from a Detroit businessman.

Meanwhile, towing kingpin Gasper Fiore skipped going to trial in federal court and pleaded guilty to bribing a suburban official who said he could help Fiore get government contracts.

The federal investigation into public corruption in Macomb County and beyond has now resulted in criminal charges against about two dozen business people and public officials.

Following the money in politics isn't easy. So I teamed up with Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network to expose where a lot of the money in the city council campaigns came from.

"What we saw in 2017 in Detroit is that there was kind of like this web of super pacs that the Moroun family funded," Mauger said.

The hitch is it wasn't always clear who was supplying the loot -- until after the election was over.

This year featured one of the most bizarre political intrigues I've encountered in my 25-year career. A businessman who claims Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is out to get him rented a mobile electronic billboard, parked it across from City Hall, and showed video of Duggan driving out to the suburbs.

The businessman claims Duggan goes there to meet a mistress.

"If he's cheating on his wife, maybe he's cheating on the people of Detroit," Carmack said. "Maybe he's doing things that ain't proper with the city."

The Duggans neither confirmed nor denied Bob Carmack’s allegations. But Duggan says Carmack is trying to extort him and asked state police to investigate.

As you know from being carpet-bombed by candidates, 20-18 was a big election year. So I again teamed up with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Detroit Public Radio and the Gongwer News Service to scrutinize candidates in key races for congress.

I also scrutinized the candidates for Macomb County Clerk. Republican Lisa Sinclair claimed she was the best qualified to replace controversial clerk Karen Spranger after Spranger was ousted from office for lying about where she lived.

I found Sinclair had her own problems.

The #MeToo movement dominated headlines in 2018 and metro Detroit was no exception. I exposed Wayne County Commissioner Reggie Reg's clashes with the women in his life.

And a workplace relationship gone wrong cost taxpayers in Washington Township $20,000.

One thing that never seems to change is Detroit lawmakers behaving badly.

City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield was caught in Hamtramck going 63 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone.
When the officer was not impressed by her claim she was on city business, she questioned his professionalism.

"As an elected official, who had mentioned that I'm on official duty trying to head somewhere," said Sheffield on tape. "I find it highly disrespectful."
Councilman Andre Spivey won re-election only after submitting nominating petitions that he claimed were collected by a relative. But some people who signed the petitions said they never met her.

Had Spivey's scheme been caught earlier, it could have voided his petitions and knocked him off the ballot. Maybe that's why he didn't want to meet with me?

Covering all of State Representative Bettie Cook Scott's issues could take all of next year. So let's just stick to her decision to stop going to work after she lost the democratic nomination for a state senate seat.

One thing the Detroit Democrat did not stop doing is cashing her check you know, the ones paid for with your tax dollars.