Former Dayton Commissioner pleads guilty to avoid corruption trial

Ex-city commissioner Joey Williams pleads guilty, apologizes to ‘citizens of Dayton’

Former bank president and Dayton city commissioner Joey D. Williams was convicted Friday on a federal bribery charge.

Williams, 53, pleaded guilty to a charge of corruptly soliciting a bribe as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that could reduce his sentence if U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Rose accepts the terms at a Jan. 29 hearing.

The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and supervised release of three years. Restitution is mandatory.

“He has accepted responsibility for his conduct today, for which he is extremely regretful,” Williams’ attorney Patrick John Hanley said after the court appearance. “He apologizes to the citizens of Dayton. And it should be clearly understood that these were his actions and his actions alone.”

Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey D. Williams (right) and his attorney, Patrick John Hanley (left), leave the federal court building in Dayton after Williams on Sept. 27, 2019 pleaded guilty to one count of corruptly soliciting a bribe. LYNN HULSEY/Staff

Williams, who declined comment, can withdraw his plea if Rose doesn’t accept the plea agreement terms.

It is the second conviction out of four indictments federal officials announced in April stemming from a federal probe of political corruption in the Dayton region.

In July former state lawmaker Clayton Luckie, 56, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud related to defrauding the city’s minority business set-aside program, and faces sentencing on Nov. 15. Luckie admitted to accepting $2,000 in bribes as part of the scheme.

Luckie was released from prison in March 2016 after being convicted in 2013 on multiple counts related to diverting campaign contributions for personal use while in the state legislature.

RELATED: Feds get guilty plea from former State Rep. Clayton Luckie, D-Dayton, in corruption investigation

“It’s never a good day for the community when public officials are involved in this type of thing. What is good though is that it’s progress toward identifying potential issues and problems,” Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Brent Tabacchi said after Williams court hearing.

“At any level of government, any time that that type of stuff can be rooted out and identified, that’s progress,” Tabacchi said. “And so I think that’s the importance of the first two pleas in those cases.”

All public servants must value “transparency, integrity and accountability,” Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

“When any of these values are violated, it erodes all of the good work and dedication to service performed by all public employees. I continue to be disappointed by those bad actors whose actions have called into question the nearly 2,000 city employees who work hard every day,” she said.

Williams served 16 years on city commission before resigning in February 2018, just months after winning re-election. He previously was a member of the Dayton City Schools Board of Education for eight years.

Williams also was president of the Dayton-market at Chase Bank and later at KeyBank, a job that he left in May.

RELATED: Joey Williams out as bank market president after bribery indictment

He pleaded guilty to the same charge that he was indicted on in April. But the statement of facts included in his plea agreement reduces the amount of money and services Williams is accused of accepting from an unidentified business owner and the value of contracts that the business received.

A federal indictment unsealed in April accuses former Dayton Commissioner Joey D. Williams of accepting more than $50,000 in bribes, including cash and home improvement work such as a patio seen here at his home in Dayton in exchange for helping a contractor get work for the city.
Photo: Staff Writer

In the original indictment, Williams was accused of taking more than $50,000 in money and benefits, including renovations at his Dayton home. In exchange, the indictment alleged he used his influence to get the city and the nonprofit CityWide Development Corp. to award contracts in excess of $150,000 to the business.

The statement of facts Williams signed on Sept. 10 says that in 2015, Williams met with the business owner to talk about difficulty getting city contracts. The business owner agreed to do a home improvement project for Williams at a “substantially discounted price,” the statement says, including $10,000 in free labor.

Williams later asked the business owner to complete additional home improvements “that cost thousands of dollars,” the statement says. The business owner offered to do the work for free and gave Williams “several thousand dollars in cash” to pay subcontractors, according to the statement of facts.

Williams accepted the proposal, the statement says, “intending to be rewarded and influenced” for using his city of Dayton position to help the business get contracts.

In total, the business performed over $35,000 in work on the Williams home, the statement says. “Mr. Williams, however, only contributed roughly $7,000 of his own money toward the cost of the project,” the document says.

In return, Williams encouraged at least one city employee to find work for the business, the statement says. He also voted to approve a contract between the city and the business without disclosing the “improper benefits” he had received, according to the statement.

The business received demolition contracts worth more than $5,000 from the city of Dayton and CityWide, the statement says.

‘Culture of corruption’

When the indictments were announced in April, Benjamin Glassman, interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District, said he expected there would be more arrests and charges. But so far no others have been revealed.

The long-term, covert investigation uncovered “what appears to be a culture of corruption in Dayton-area politics,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Joseph Deters said at the news conference announcing the four indictments.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman (left) and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in an April 2019 file photo. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

The other men whose indictments were unsealed in April were: RoShawn Winburn, 45, who was the city of Dayton’s Human Relations Council business and technical assistance administrator; and Brian Higgins, a Dayton businessman who previously ran a body hauling service that contracted with the Montgomery County Coroner’s office. He also owned the now-defunct SideBar restaurant in the Oregon District.

RELATED: City investigating after corruption charges allege contracting fraud in Dayton

Winburn, who was fired by the city after the indictment, is accused of soliciting and accepting more than $20,000 in cash from individuals and companies in return for providing small-business certifications without proper verification and disclosing confidential information on upcoming city projects.

Brian Higgins, Clayton Luckie, Joey Williams, and Roshawn Winburn

He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of corruptly soliciting a bribe and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. Winburn’s trial is set for Oct. 15 before Judge Rose.

RELATED: City fires administrator after federal bribery, fraud charges

Higgins, 48, was indicted on three counts of mail fraud and one of wire fraud for allegedly defrauding an insurance company in 2014 and 2015 with a claim involving a leaking fish tank that damaged his home.

Higgins has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled for Feb. 18 before Judge Rose.

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