Most of our state and local public employees are undoubtedly upstanding citizens, yet the growing scope of government power leads some to do incredibly selfish things. Here are the Top 10 Public Employee Scandals:
1. Prince George’s County corruption: This Washington, D.C., suburb is a cesspool of corruption. County Executive Jack Johnson was recently indicted on conspiracy, extortion, and bribery charges relating to a pay-for-play scheme, taking money, trips, meals, drinks, hotel rooms, airline tickets, rounds of golf, mortgage payments, and campaign contributions from developers. Unrelated to Johnson’s scandal, Ulysses Currie—the state senator representing the Maryland county—was indicted last September for taking $245,000 in bribes. And Currie’s campaign treasurer Olivia Harris pled guilty to stealing $157,350 from Currie’s campaign account.
2. Bell , Calif. , salaries: The mayor and former city manager of Bell , Calif., along with six other city officials, were arrested last year and charged with illegally paying themselves huge salaries. Bell is a mostly Hispanic working-class town of 40,000 near Los Angeles, yet City Manager Robert Rizzo was receiving an $800,000 salary. Rizzo, booked on 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds, and the other officials were charged with taking $5.5 million from the city coffers.
3. Kickbacks for jailed kids: Former Pennsylvania juvenile court Judge Mark Ciavarella was found guilty of 12 counts of racketeering and conspiracy in February for sending youthful offenders to detention centers in exchange for $2 million in kickbacks from the builder of the for-profit facility. While the disgraced judge said the money was a “finder’s fee,” the state Supreme Court threw out thousands of juvenile convictions from Ciavarella’s court.
4. Washington, D.C., shopping spree: Harriette Walters, a tax assessments manager in Washington, D.C., was sentenced in 2009 to 78 months in prison for approving $48 million in false tax refunds, which she used to go on expensive shopping sprees and to lavish gifts on friends and family members. Walters, whose annual salary was $81,000, spent more $1.4 million at Neiman Marcus for jewelry, clothing, and designer handbags.
5. New York pension scandal: Former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi pleaded guilty last year to corruption charges for accepting more than $1 million in expenses, fees, and donations from a California businessman in return for allowing the businessman to earn $18 million in fees for investing $250 million of the state’s pension fund. Despite his guilty plea, Hevesi is allowed to keep his own $105,000 annual pension.
6. Philadelphia housing authority scandal: Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Executive Director Carl Greene had to step down from his $300,000-a-year job after using taxpayer dollars to throw wild parties that included belly dancers, and secretly spending $500,000 in agency money to settle four sexual harassment claims against him. Federal housing officials recently suspended millions of dollars in funding to the agency while investigators unravel the corruption.
7. New Orleans housing authority scandal: Elias Castellanos, chief financial officer of the New Orleans Housing Authority, was sentenced to four years in prison for using taxpayer money to buy a million-dollar mansion in Florida. Castellanos stole $245,217 by padding invoices and $655,710 by submitting invoices under his wife’s maiden name.
8. Crooked TSA agents: Two Transportation Security Administration agents were charged with grand larceny, possession of stolen property, and official misconduct for stealing $160,000 in cash from bags at New York’s Kennedy Airport. Davon Webb, 30, and Couman Perad, 36, who were arrested after stealing $39,000 from a single bag on Jan. 30, admitted to authorities that they swiped cash from checked bags on a regular basis.
9. Corrupt Dallas cop: Dallas policewoman Theadora Ross was arrested for stealing $250,000 in rewards meant for people making tips to a Crime Stoppers program. Her job was to evaluate the tips and select those eligible for the reward. Instead, she steered the money to a friend and split the proceeds.
10. Seattle school scam: Seattle Public Schools spent $1.8 million on a contract for work that was never done. Silas Potter Jr., who managed the district’s small-business program, is being investigated for funneling money to friends and leaders of the Seattle black community, according to the Seattle Times. Investigators are trying to unravel the corruption, but Potter vanished when asked to talk with auditors.