Dallas City Council Member Carolyn Davis Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes
Friday morning, four-term Dallas City Council Member Carolyn Davis pleaded guilty to accepting more than $40,000 in bribes, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
According to plea papers, Council Member Davis actively sought these bribes from a real estate developer who stood to benefit from her support of his low-income housing project.
In return for the money – plus the offer of a consulting contract once her tenure at the City Council concluded – Council Member Davis admits she lobbied and voted for the authorization of a $2.5 million development loan to fund the Royal Crest housing project, along with a City of Dallas resolution supporting 9 percent tax credits for Royal Crest, which was competing with another project. She also wielded her considerable influence as Chair of the Dallas Housing Committee in Royal Crest’s favor while advocating for the project with Dallas housing officials.
“Over the course of my 15-month tenure here at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our team has been relentlessly dedicated to rooting out public corruption,” said U.S Attorney Nealy Cox. “I hope this case sends a message to public officials across our districts: When you prioritize your own financial interests ahead of your duty to you constituents, we will dig as deep as we have to in order to uncover the scheme. And we will bring you to justice.”
“As FBI Dallas continues to proactively investigate Public Officials who misuse their positions of trust, our investigative efforts will be just as focused on those who seek to use their personal wealth, influence, or facilitate relationships between those willing to pay or accept bribes,” said Eric K. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Dallas Division. “All of these actions continue to erode the public’s trust and do harm to the communities they were elected to serve.”
An Indictment charging the bribe payer, Ruel Hamilton, a principal with AmeriSouth Realty Group, was unsealed this morning as well.
According to the charging document, Mr. Hamilton allegedly paid out about a quarter of Council Member Davis’ bribe money – around $11,000 – in cash, often immediately after he withdrew the money from his bank account. The remaining 75 percent – roughly $29,500 – was funneled through a not-for-profit intermediary.
In an attempt to disguise the payments, Mr. Hamilton allegedly made out checks to the owner of the not-for-profit, then handed the checks to Council Member Davis, who delivered them to the not-for-profit owner; the owner then deposited or cashed these checks and gave the majority of the proceeds back to Council Member Davis. Not surprisingly, Council Member Davis did not disclose any of these payments to the City Council, or to the Housing Committee, or on her financial disclosure report.
According to the Indictment, Mr. Hamilton also bribed another public official, referred to in the documents as Council Person A, in August 2018. In return for Council Person A’s assistance in getting a referendum on the Council’s agenda and promoting another housing project, Mr. Hamilton wrote a $7,000 check to Council Person A to cover his personal needs.
Neither Council Member Davis nor Council Person A are currently serving in official capacities. Council Member Davis left office in 2016, and Council Person A’s tenure on the City Council ended August 9, 2018.
An indictment is merely an allegation of wrongdoing, not evidence. Mr. Hamilton is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If convicted, Mr. Hamilton faces up to 20 years in federal prison for two counts of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits. Council Member Davis faces up to 5 years in federal prison on the charge to which she pleaded guilty, conspiracy to commit bribery concerning an agent of a local government receiving federal benefits.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marcus Busch, Andrew Wirmani, and Chad Meacham prosecuted the case.