Dayton worker accused of bribery runs business linked to city department

A Dayton employee accused of taking bribes also runs a business that until days ago was listed by the city as a certified minority contractor with a phone number that rings to his city department.

RoShawn Winburn was arrested on April 30 at his office at the city’s Human Relations Council. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud and public corruption. The federal court has set a trial date of June 24.

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He has been on unpaid leave from the city since the arrest.

Also charged were former city commissioner Joey Williams, former state lawmaker Clayton Luckie and businessman Brian Higgins. The charges are part of an ongoing corruption investigation, federal prosecutors said.

A federal indictment accuses Winburn of taking bribes in exchange for certifying entities as minority-owned or disadvantaged firms without fully checking their qualifications.

Winburn’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

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The city maintains a list of companies it certifies as minority-owned or disadvantaged and works to give a certain percentage of city contracts to those firms. Other governments, businesses and nonprofits also use the list to find minority and disadvantaged vendors.

The list of certified companies is updated daily, according to HRC’s website.

Aspyre Advisors LLC was on that list as a financial advising company until at least May 2. The Dayton Daily News contacted the city about Aspyre on May 3 and it now is no longer on the certified businesses list. City spokeswoman Toni Bankston didn’t have information late Thursday about when or why Aspyre was removed.

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Unlike nearly all other companies on the city’s list, no contact name or email were listed for Aspyre. The phone number for Aspyre was the same as the general number for the Human Relations Council.

Aspyre was certified as a minority business in 2009, Bankston said in an email in response to questions from the Dayton Daily News. The Human Relations Council purchased $1,050 of furniture from Aspyre in 2012, she said, and the city has had no other transactions with the company.

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Winburn started working for the HRC in 2014 and listed Aspyre on his job application, according to his personnel file obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

City officials did not say why the company lists the HRC’s number as a contact.

“There is no formal relationship between Aspyre Advisors and HRC. No one at the HRC is permitted to take calls for a third party,” Bankston said.

She wrote that city policy prohibits an employee from being involved in certifying a company in which they have a financial interest. The Dayton Daily News on May 3 requested the city’s file on Aspyre and has not received a copy of it.

No approval on file

Aspyre was incorporated in 2008 as Monument Capital Advisors, then Winburn became its CEO and changed its name to Aspyre in 2010, according to records filed with the Ohio Secretary of State.

The company lists Winburn on its website as part of its “wealth team,” saying he “organizes the personal and business affairs of clients by developing and executing strategies to meet their long-term objectives.”

Winburn lists himself currently as a senior adviser to Aspyre on his LinkedIn page.

A call to a phone number on Aspyre’s website went to a voicemail for Winburn. Messages from the Dayton Daily News weren’t returned.

A visit to the address in Vandalia listed on the company’s website found an empty office that a neighboring tenant said hadn’t been used in years.

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He was hired by the city in 2014 as Minority Business Assistance Center director, according to his city personnel file, promoted in 2015 and voluntarily demoted back to MBAC director in 2016. He then was just promoted again on April 19 to business and technical assistance administrator at a salary of $84,998, according to the file obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

In 2017, Winburn signed a city form attesting that all employees must obtain departmental approval before seeking outside employment. His personnel files do not include any documentation of approval for outside employment, though state records list him as the agent for at least seven companies, including Aspyre.

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Asked about Winburn’s outside employment, Bankston didn’t directly say if he had approval. “Any employee working supplemental employment without a request to do so and subsequent approval would be in violation of city policy,” she said.

The other company Winburn lists on his LinkedIn as his current employer is Jasper Browne LLC. Winburn is listed as that company’s agent on its 2016 incorporation documents filed with the secretary of state. Those documents also list the same address for Jasper Brown as the empty office space as Aspyre.

‘Never been more shocked’

Jasper Browne managing partner Donerik Black said Winburn was never active in the company. The business provides consulting to small businesses, Black said, and has been funded mostly by area financial institutions wanting to strengthen the area’s small business sector.

The intent was that Jasper Browne would grow and someday Winburn would have an active role in the company, Black said, but that never happened.

“The goal was to grow the business and look for consulting opportunities to larger companies and we just never really hit goal on that,” he said.

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Black and Winburn together spoke at workshops for small businesses last year, according to ads for the workshops posted online. Black said Winburn spoke in his role with the city and received no compensation from Jasper Browne.

“We made sure there was no conflict of interest,” Black said. “RoShawn did clear it with the director of MBAC.”

Black said when Winburn was arrested, “I have never been more shocked in my entire life.”

“I never knew him to do anything outside the rules and regs,” he said. “I think once everything settles, I don’t think the allegations are accurate.”

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