Michigan Carpenters Bosses Sentenced for Accepting Illegal Discounts

If only Ralph Mabry had been a little more patient about moving into his dream home. Mabry since 1997 had served as executive secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. For most of that time he operated under a cloud of suspicion; the FBI and the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, starting in 1999, had jointly probed financial irregularities surrounding the construction of Mabry’s $803,000 residence in Grosse Pointe Park. Mabry, along with Council President Anthony Michael, two years ago was indicted for conspiring to obtain a $127,800 discount from contractors under false pretenses. On September 25, standing before U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, Mabry learned his fate: a two-year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine. Michael received a one-year, one-day sentence and a $3,000 fine. Both men had been convicted by jury in late February for solicitation and receipt of prohibited payments.


Mabry and Michael had been charged in connection with “extraordinary discounts” on building materials, labor and other costs from six Detroit-area contractors. The union, in return, allegedly sought to represent employees of these contractors. Officials of three of the companies – Nelson-Mill, Crudo Brothers and Harris Homes – already have pleaded guilty to making illegal payments and were fined in amounts ranging from $16,100 to $61,356. This wasn’t the only time persons affiliated or associated with the union have been in hot water. 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 union business agents to help build the Williamsons’ $200,000 home in St. Clair County, Mich. in the late 90s.

The newly-convicted defendants, Mabry and Michael, aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. Their respective lawyers, James Robinson and Stephen Rabaut, plan to appeal the case. Robinson argues that almost none of the illegal transactions apply, due to a five-year statute of limitations. He added that the federal law preventing labor officials from receiving things of value from union-affiliated companies allows these officials to pay prevailing market prices for goods and services, which Mabry apparently did. In the meantime, Mabry announced upon sentencing that he would step down from his post at the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, which represents some 23,000 journeymen and apprentices statewide.  (Detroit Free Press, 9/26/06).