Skip to comments.Ex-Brown aide faces Ohio bribery charge
Posted on 12/08/2004 12:47:53 AM PST by weegee
Ex-Brown aide faces Ohio bribery charge
Oliver Spellman is accused of aiding a consultant trying to get city contracts
A chief of staff to former Mayor Lee Brown was charged Tuesday in Ohio with accepting bribes in exchange for helping a Cleveland consultant who was trying to win city of Houston contracts.
The charge against Oliver Spellman, who more recently worked as a top aide to County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, is part of a continuing investigation that already has resulted in the bribery indictment of a Cleveland city councilman.
Garcia said Spellman resigned suddenly Friday as her chief of staff for operations. As a precaution, in light of Tuesday's charges, Garcia said she has asked the county attorney to review all contracts handled by Spellman.
It could not be determined Tuesday night whether the city of Houston awarded any contracts to the consultant, who was alleged to have bribed Spellman with $2,000 to $3,000 cash and a Las Vegas hotel stay. City Attorney Arturo Michel said he is seeking more information about the charges and contracts in which Spellman was involved.
Garcia said Spellman indicated that he was leaving her office for personal reasons.
"I was surprised by his resignation," she said. "The staff is still trying to digest it. I wonder whether or not there is any tie (to the charges), but I can't second guess anything."
Former Cleveland employee The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland charged Spellman with accepting the bribes in return for assisting someone in Cleveland referred to only as "Consultant #1."
Spellman, who was employed with the city of Cleveland before coming to Houston, is accused of helping the consultant obtain contracts for a Cleveland client in 2001 and 2002.
In return for the bribes, Spellman agreed to help the consultant obtain a contract relating to shuttle service to Bush Intercontinental Airport and energy services, according to the criminal information document setting out the charges.
He was charged with one count of criminal conspiracy to obtain bribes as a public official, an offense carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Bill Edwards, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland, said Spellman is in Houston and will be summoned to appear for arraignment before a federal magistrate judge in Cleveland within a few days.
Bob Doguim, spokesman for the Houston FBI, said agents have spoken with Spellman in Houston.
The investigation is continuing, and other people are expected to be charged, Doguim said, but he could not say whether they were being investigated in Houston or Cleveland.
The Houston Chronicle was not able to reach Spellman or Brown on Tuesday.
Spellman resigned abruptly as Brown's chief of staff in October 2002 after about 10 months on the job, citing personal reasons. He served about four years as director of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.
Garcia hired Spellman within months of his resignation because he was well-respected by people in his field, she said.
"Quite frankly, I felt he had issues he had to deal with, and he assured me he had," she said. Nothing surfaced that appeared likely to affect his work performance, she said, adding that she was not aware of any problems with his work at the city or at the county.
His responsibilities in the county job included overseeing the 34 parks in Garcia's precinct.
Spellman became Brown's chief of staff to succeed Jordy Tollett, who became full-time director of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I find it hard to believe," Tollett said Tuesday. "Oliver seemed like too good of a guy. He seemed like a straight shooter."
Tollett said he had a good working relationship with Spellman and added that if Brown had suspected wrongdoing by Spellman, he "would have been the first one to walk him over to the DA."
Wide-ranging probe Although the criminal information against Spellman does not name Consultant #1, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported that Nate Gray, a prominent political consultant and parking-lot operator in Cleveland, has been under investigation for several years in a wide-ranging public corruption probe that extends to Houston and New Orleans.
Edwards refused to say whether the Spellman charges are related to the Gray investigation.
Gray is identified by the newspaper as one of two consultants alleged to have paid at least $5,500 in bribes to Cleveland City Councilman Joseph Jones, who has been indicted on charges of accepting bribes.
Former East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor is scheduled to be sentenced next week for accepting bribes in return for funneling contracts to two Gray associates. Gray was not charged in the case.
No surprise here. Rats always have their hands out. They never learned to play fair and if they get caught they just deflect public attention till the dust settles!
(Not to mention, the Comical is always on their side, LOL!)
Considering that the Comical is in bed with the downtown business alliance and missed the Enron scandal completely, it is like letting the fox guard the hen house.
I didn't see a mention of party ... so I'm guessing he's a Dem?
Mayor Brown was (and was Clinton's Drug Czar to boot). The office of mayor in Houston is technically "non-partisan" but the Comical makes sure to make it about party when a Republican enters the race.
Here's a lengthy article on Oliver Spellman Oliver's Story - Houston's former parks director tried to expand his résumé with a political job. He may have torched it instead. (November 7, 2002)
The 49-year-old Spellman's sudden departure kicked up a flurry of City Hall rumors, the most persistent being that he flunked a random drug test earlier this month. Three different sources with close administration ties gave the same account.
After Brown was safely out of media range on the Middle East jaunt, Spellman announced his departure on a Thursday night in a terse three-sentence e-mail that described his reasons for leaving as "personal" and his location as "out of town, spending time with my family." The mayor's staff then released the statement on Brown's letterhead the next day without any clarification or spin.
Seems to have a lot of "convenient" personal reasons for leaving jobs.
The stocky, sedate, balding bureaucrat hardly cuts the figure of a secretly wild and crazy guy. During his four-year tenure as parks and recreation director, he drew rave reviews as the best and brightest of the mayor's appointees. His reputation as a sober, competent administrator makes the mystery surrounding his resignation and disappearance that much more intriguing.
"I honestly and truly do not know," commented Councilwoman Annise Parker on the reports that drug testing led to Spellman's resignation. "If it's true, then he took the appropriate action."
As for Spellman's reputation as a straight arrow in the Brown administrative jungle, she opines, "That just speaks to our myths and biases about who might be using drugs and what kind of drugs. If so, it's sad for him, it's sad for his family, it's bad for the city, and it's stupid."
"To me he was a very stable, very calm, mannered, nice guy, one of the nicest directors I ever worked with," recalls Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, a former senior aide to Mayor Brown before winning office last fall. "Parks was in my portfolio, so I worked with him a lot, and he was very effective, very smart."
Spellman's decision to leave the parks post for the political role of chief of staff last February puzzled a number of City Hall veterans. Under Brown's rather fuzzy lines of administration (see "Brown's Diss-functional City Hall Family," March 22, 2001), the mayor's office became a free fire zone for power seekers and backstabbers. Particularly hazardous was the chief of staff position, which chewed up three previous occupants, Jay Aiyer, Cheryl Dotson and Jordy Tollett. One source sees the hand of City Attorney Hall, widely viewed as the real power behind the throne in Brown's waning term, in orchestrating Spellman's job change.
"What I was told is that Anthony was the one who selected him and recommended him to the mayor," says the source, "supposedly because he wanted somebody that was not as strong as Jordy, somebody who could be controlled and manipulated."
A councilmember believes it was less a matter of manipulation than mission. "Oliver could certainly hold his own. He's a very smart guy, but I don't think he was as strong a personality or as passionate about things as Jordy, particularly things about downtown. I think he saw his job not as an advocate but to carry out the mayor's initiatives."
Some City Hall observers saw political motivations in the timing of Spellman's resignation. It came after the mayor suffered perhaps the biggest defeat of his administration earlier this month when City Council voted to award a lucrative Hobby Airport food concession contract to Four Families rather than the administration choice, CA One. The swing vote belonged to Councilman Gabe Vasquez, who is considered one of Spellman's closest council friends. Keller suspects that Spellman caught some of the heat for that loss, and became expendable.
"I'm not necessarily buying the flunk-a-drug-test story," says Keller. "I think they're blaming him for some of their losses. There's more to it than just peeing in a cup."
Vasquez calls that speculation "leftover gossip" from the food fight. "I'm disappointed because I think the city lost a good director, a good administrator," says Vasquez. "I don't know any of the details surrounding his departure, and it's a surprise to me as much as anybody else."
Houston Police Department homicide investigators face a daunting task in sorting out the last hours in the life of 46-year-old municipal lobbyist Ross Allyn. Possible murder suspects range from the male hustlers-for-hire he occasionally took to his Timbergrove Manor rental house, to a circle of cocaine dealers he patronized for years, to local business folk and politicos with grudges over his recent city contract successes.
On his final evening, Allyn confided to a friend over dinner at the Heights-area Hickory Hollow barbecue joint that he believed his phones were tapped. He told another associate that he had done drugs with public officials and had tape-recorded another politician making illegal demands for a cut of a government contract.
Whoever shot the popular, perpetually wired Allyn in the neck drew a smoky veil over the evidence. A fire was set that gutted the house and charred the victim and his auto. The pressure is on to solve the case quickly, with Mayor Lee Brown, acting police chief Joe Breshears and District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal closely following the investigation. But where to start on a probe with more loose ends and red herrings than a vintage CSI or Law & Order episode? The suspects, real or imagined, could make for a lineup that stretches around a city block.
Several onlookers at the scene the morning of the murder marveled that visitors -- they included state Senator John Whitmire and City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado -- were allowed inside the house for tours while evidence was still being collected. A close friend of Allyn's, attorney Lisa Liles, retrieved framed photos from the building.
There seemed to be confusion at the house, with chief arson investigator Roy Paul telling reporters he believed the fire was accidental, while homicide officers were indicating to others it was intentional -- and therefore murder. Police have declined comment on any aspect of the investigation.
The killing was the final chapter in the life of a mostly behind-the-scenes City Hall player who publicly advocated honesty in government but seemed drawn to corruption and risky business in both politics and his personal life. He moved to Houston in his teens from San Antonio, graduated from UH-Downtown and South Texas College of Law, but did not pursue a legal career.
Even though he did not speak fluent Spanish, he became the right-hand man for then-councilman Ben Reyes, arguably the most crooked city official of his era. For a time, Allyn worked in a lobbyist business with Reyes's eventual successor, John Castillo. When Reyes and Castillo were indicted for bribery-conspiracy in the federal Hotel Six sting, Allyn was swept up in the net. As it turned out, the FBI had been taping his phone conversations for months in the secret investigation.
And INITIALLY they said that it was just an accidental fire (until they had to admit he was shot).
Our city government is corrupt as the worst of them. And having another Clinton crony (Bill White) replace the last one (Lee Brown) doesn't sit well with me. Nor the fact that they were both the Chronicle's "guy".
The man is a moron. He hardly ever spoke publicly.
At least we have a seemingly intelligent democrat running Houston now. But it will take years or decades to undo the problems Lee P. Brown has caused the city!
The revolving door of Rats infesting City Hall are largely of the same ilk, regardless of how many undercover investigations of bribes and corruption that there are.
Corruption probe here broadens to 3 states (FIVE STATES now!!!) (Dec. 8, 2004, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Cleveland probe tied to local case - Wiretaps said to ID corrupt N.O. official (Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - New Orleans Times-Picayune)
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