MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Johnny Thomas has been charged with one count of public official accepting a bribe, and one count of misconduct in public office after a John Doe investigation. Both charges are felonies.
The criminal complaint in the case says Thomas took a $500 cash bribe to approve a government contract, and further agreed to accept an additional $500 payment after the approval.
The complaint states Patrick Farley, the director of the Milwaukee County Department of Administrative Services expressed concerns to the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office about Thomas' interactions with vendors doing business with the County in late fall, 2011. According to the complaint, The Department of Administrative Services requested a three-year professional services contract related to general obligation purpose bonds and general airport revenue bonds for 2011-2013. As chairman of the Committee on Finance and Audit, Thomas sets the agenda for all Committee on Finance and Audit meetings, and if he failed to schedule a contract for vote before the end of the annual session, the contract fails by default, and is not returned to the full County Board for final approval.
The complaint says the Department of Administrative Services repeatedly asked Thomas to place the contract on the agenda, but Thomas did not schedule the contract. Farley says he believed Thomas was intentionally obstructing the contract, and agreed to participate in an undercover investigation against Thomas.
The complaint says Farley called Thomas and asked him to meet at Dunkin Donuts to "talk offline about the contract," and Thomas agreed. Farley audio-recorded their conversation. Later, Farley met Thomas at Dunkin Donuts again with $500 in cash - of which the serial numbers of the bills were recorded. Thomas took the cash, and Thomas said to Farley: "This is just between you and me, right?" Farley said he understood Thomas was taking the $500 cash payment to schedule the contract before the Committee on Finance and Audit.
The complaint goes on to say Farley understood Thomas was agreeing to another $500 payment after the contract was scheduled. This payment was to be made at Thomas' campaign fundraiser set for December 15th, 2011. The complaint says Thomas added the contract item to the agenda the day after accepting the first $500 payment.
Thomas was arrested on December 12th and admitted taking $500 cash at the Dunkin Donuts meeting as described in the criminal complaint. Thomas said he still had the money at home, and intended on returning it. The cash was later found in Thomas' bedroom.
Thomas' attorney, Michael Maistelman issued the following statement Thursday: "Supervisor John Thomas is innocent of these charges. The DA has unfortunately taken unrelated events and forced an unreasonably negative and false story on top of the facts. As the process unfolds and all the facts come out, John will be vindicated and cleared of all charges. At this time, Supervisor Thomas, on my advice, is not making any statement. His campaign for Comptroller is being suspended.”
Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway issued the following statement Thursday evening: "As Chairman of the Board, I am shocked and saddened by the nature of the charges made public this afternoon against Supervisor Johnny L. Thomas. I had no knowledge of the case against Supervisor Thomas until it was revealed Thursday. We will let this case work its way through the justice system. Supervisor Thomas remains innocent until proven guilty. If these accusations are true, I am deeply disappointed.”