Questions swirl around meeting Detroit councilman had with police chief

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New names are popping up in connection with the investigation into public corruption in Macomb County and one of those named as target subject is Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland.

Last summer M.L. Elrick heard that Leland asked Detroit Police Chief James Craig for information on the federal investigation into public corruption. 

The Chief just confirmed it happened and what he says happened does not match up with what Leland told Elrick back in June.

"We had a meeting like we often do," Leland said in June, 2017. "Talking about issues and there was some concerns from some constituents. They had brought some issues to my attention regarding a certain tow company that happened to reside in my district (No. 7)."

A provocative story in The Detroit News names Leland among more than a dozen officials and business people FBI agents were interested in as part of an investigation into drugs, bribery and extortion.

Federal wiretap documents also list Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Judge Vonda Evans, former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco and former State Rep. Brian Banks as "target subjects."

According to The News, the feds claimed in a 2016 document that there was "probable cause the target subjects were engaged in the payment and receipt of bribes and corrupt payments."

The feds say the document should have been sealed and that the allegations may never lead to criminal charges.  Sheriff Napoleon, for one, says any suggestion he broke the law is "ridiculous."

But the document exposes two vastly different accounts of what happened when Councilman Leland and Chief Craig met.

In June, Elrick asked:  "As I understand it, this meeting with the chief was about a tow company, but it was more about whether the tow company was under investigation either by DPD or by the feds."

Leland: "All I had at the time was information that I was reading in the news."

Leland did not return a message seeking comment but in June he insisted that he did not meet with the chief to find out whether Gasper Fiore's towing company was under investigation.

At the time, Leland was dating Fiore's daughter, Jennifer.  Gasper Fiore has since pleaded guilty to bribing a public official in Macomb County.

In June Elrick said: "Just so I'm clear, in addition to asking about whether or not there was a violation of the noise ordinance, were you also asking whether or not this contractor is under investigation?"

"Part of the conversation could have happened," Leland said in June. "That was not why I was there. I was there to present the facts of the constituent issue."

That is not how Chief Craig remembers his meeting with Leland. He told The Detroit News:

"He said he wanted to meet with me for the purpose of discussing something unrelated to towing, but once he gets into the meeting with me, he starts asking about the towing investigation ...  I was not comfortable with Leland's questions, and I immediately contacted the FBI as soon as he left the room and told them he was asking me questions about the towing investigation."

In June, Elrick said: "From what I understand and from what I've been told, the chief was so concerned about this meeting, that you say didn't happen, he contacted the FBI and passed it along to them for whatever purposes they may have. 

"Interesting, interesting to me," Leland said then. "I am not involved with - at least to my knowledge at this point in time - in any kind of investigation. I'm not being investigated."

Elrick did not report on his meeting with Leland last summer because he could not confirm whether the chief contacted the FBI, but the chief's comments about the meeting raise questions about who is telling the truth.

This much is clear: Leland's memory of the meeting's details were shaky. 

"I have a lot of tow contractors that call District 7 home," he said then. "And the exact name of the contractor is not coming to mind at this point in time."

Elrick: "My understanding is that the questions were about Gasper Fiore's company

"That is absolutely not true," Leland said in June. "And his name, his companies, did not come up in the conversation."

"You don't remember who it was, but you remember who it wasn't," Elrick said.

"Correct," Leland said.

Elrick: "Is it possible the chief is mistaken?"

Leland: "You are going to have to talk to the chief. I have the utmost respect for the chief, he's an upstanding public servant and I am sure he would say the same about me."

Banks said he only dealt with Fiore because he was a constituent. Evans and Marrocco could not be reached for comment.