The Top 5 Mayoral Criminals


While the alleged actions of San Diego mayor Bob Filner (D) are certainly deplorable, is it really shocking to see a mayor of a North American city in trouble with the law? The short answer: No.

In the past 25 years there have been a number of mayors involved in very public criminal scandals and investigations.

There’s Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry’s infamous assertion that “the bitch set me up,” when caught smoking crack by the FBI. Or there’s the rise, fall, and rise again of Providence, RI’s notorious Buddy Cianci. One thing is for sure: There’s certainly no shortage of shady characters being elected to run our cities.

Here’s a look back at the five greatest mayoral criminal scandals of recent history.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Washington, D.C.: Marion Barry


This one needs no introduction. The iconic photo above was captured by an FBI surveillance camera and shows then-Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry (D) igniting a crack pipe. Seconds after the scene was captured, federal authorities raided the hotel room and arrested Barry. Barry responded to the raid with an iconic rambling statement: “Bitch set me up. I shouldn’t have come up here… goddamn bitch,” he said, referring to Rasheeda Jones, the woman who lured him to the room.

This video, and Barry’s six-month stint in prison, didn’t cool his political aspirations. Barry went on to serve another term as mayor after being re-elected in 1994. He also currently represents Ward 8 in D.C.’s city council.

Barry also tested positive for cocaine and marijuana as recently as 2006.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Toronto: Rob Ford


The subject of cocaine-smoking mayors often turns from Marion Barry to current Toronto mayor, Rob Ford.

Above is a video of Mayor Ford — posted less than a week ago — wandering the streets of Toronto, completely drunk. The website Gawker also claims to have seen video of the mayor smoking crack with Toronto drug dealers. But Ford’s substance abuse issus are not what has spurred all his criminal scandals.

In January 2013, Ford’s mayoral term was put in jeopardy when it was discovered he used city stationery and resources to raise money for his private football foundation. Charges that he violated conflict-of-interest laws were brought against him, and it was decided he would be removed from office. Ford, however, appealed the decision and was allowed to remain as mayor. Since the political scandal, the video of Ford inebriated surfaced, as did Gawker reports of the mayor smoking illegal substances.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Northern New Jersey: Peter Cammarano, Jeremiah Healy, Sharpe James, and Tony Mack

New Jersey Corruption

For years it seemed like corruption, criminal activity, and Garden State mayors were just an inseparable fact of political life.

First, there was Sharpe James (D) who reigned over Newark — New Jersey’s largest city — for 20 years. In July 2007, James was indicted on 33 counts of fraud when it was discovered he used his city-issued credit cards to pay for lavish gifts and vacations. He was also indicted on charges that he facilitated the sale of city-owned land to a female companion, who later made a huge profit off the plots. James was eventually sentenced to 27 months in jail and a $100,000 fine in federal court.

A stone’s throw north of Newark lies Jersey City, which has been dogged by mayoral corruption for the better part of a century. Most recently, Mayor Jeremiah Healy (D) was literally caught with his pants down when a nude photo of him drunk and sleepy surfaced. Healy told the New York Times he had too many beers at a local bar and didn’t know how the picture was snapped; he later blamed his lack of clothes on “three Hispanic girls” who grabbed his towel and wanted to do “filthy” things to him. Healy was also arrested and convicted of a disorderly-persons offense after a confrontation with police outside a bar owned by his sister.

Next up: Hoboken’s Peter Cammarano (D). Cammarano was swept up — along with nearly two dozen other Hudson County politicians — in “Operation Bid Rig III.” Cammarano was charged with accepting $25,000 from a government informant who posed as a developer looking for government support of his projects. The mayor resigned and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Finally, there’s Trenton mayor Tony Mack (D), who was recently indicted on bribery and extortion charges. Mack allegedly accepted a bribe and agreed to use his office to help the developer. He has refused to step down, but faces trial in January of next year. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Providence, Rhode Island: Buddy Cianci

Buddy Cianci

Buddy Cianci (R), former mayor of Providence, RI, is perhaps the most criminally involved mayor in recent history.

First, there’s his guilty plea of assault charges brought against him during his initial reign as mayor of Providence. In 1984, Cianci was involved in an altercation with a man he was convinced was having an affair with his wife. Cianci allegedly beat him, attempted to burn his eye with a cigarette, and threatened him with a log.

Cianci went on to be re-elected to the mayor’s office, but he was soon arrested and convicted on racketeering charges. In an operation nicknamed “Operation Plunder Dome,” federal agents arrested Cianci on charges he had accepted bribes in exchange for city jobs and led a criminal conspiracy. He eventually served four years in prison.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Detroit, Michigan: Kwame Kilpatrick


The U.S. Midwest is also home to corrupt and criminally involved mayors. In Detroit, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) was convicted this year of 24 criminal charges including racketeering and extortion. According to the court, he and a group of associates used the mayor’s office to enrich themselves. Kilpatrick offered $84 million worth of work to his friend Bobby Ferguson, a construction contractor. Ferguson then shared the profits with the corrupt mayor.

Kilpatrick was also charged — and convicted — of using state funds for personal expenses. He will be sentenced on September 3 and faces multiple decades in prison.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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