Ralph Mabry thought he was getting a steal of a deal to build his Grosse Pointe Park dream home. He was right – but not in the way he’d anticipated. Mabry is executive secretary and treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, representing around 23,000 journeymen carpenters, millwrights and apprentices. He and the council’s former executive director and president, Anthony Michael, are about to stand trial in federal court for using their position to obtain a $120,000 discount from construction companies to work on the $803,000 home. The case is in the jury-selection phase.
The indictment, returned in November 2004, stated that Mabry and Michael demanded “extraordinary discounts” on building materials, labor and other costs from six Detroit-area contractors that worked on the Mabry residence during the late 90s. The union allegedly had sought to represent employees of these contractors. Mabry and Michael are charged with conspiracy to solicit and receive prohibited payments, and solicitation and receipt of prohibited payments. Three of the companies – Nelson-Mill, Crudo Brothers and Harris Homes – pleaded guilty to making prohibited payments to a union official and were fined in amounts ranging from $16,100 to $61,356.
This isn’t the first time union officials and associates have been indicted for soliciting illegal homebuilding discounts. In September 2004, Mabry’s executive administrative secretary, Sandra Williamson; her husband, David Williamson; and former Warren (Mich.) City Councilman William Barnwell each received probation following convictions for using business agents to help build the Williamsons’ $200,000 home in St. Clair County in the late 90s. Mabry’s lawyer, James Robinson, for his part, thinks his client and Michael are being railroaded. “We’re confident that after the jury has listened to all of the evidence and the judge’s instruction on the law, that they will find Ralph Mabry and Tony Michael not guilty of these charges,” Robinson said. He and Michael’s lawyer, Stephen Rabaut, add that most of the charges deal with events that fall outside the five-year statute of limitations for such cases. Ultimately, the jury will have to decide. (Detroit Free Press, 2/6).