MADISON HEIGHTS — Albert Morrison, the former chairman of the Madison District Public Schools Board of Trustees, was named in an indictment alleging he failed to pay taxes on more than $500,000 he had received from a contractor in the district.
The federal charges were announced in a joint statement April 6 by the IRS Criminal Investigations Division and the Michigan Division of the FBI.
In the indictment, Morrison, who served as chairman of the board from 2012 to the end of 2018, is charged with four counts of federal tax evasion and four counts of failing to file tax returns. federal. An indictment is just an accusation and the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court.
If convicted, Morrison faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison for each count of tax evasion and one year in prison for each count of failure to file tax returns.
No attorney for Morrison was listed in the Federal Court documents at press time.
The indictment describes an unnamed ‘Owner A’, who was one of the owners of ‘Company A’, which was regularly awarded maintenance and construction projects in the district.
“Owner A” was further described as a longtime friend of Morrison, who wrote checks to Morrison’s company, Comfort Consulting, from 2014 to 2018. He notes that Morrison deposited checks from his friend on his exclusive bank account, including at least $561,667 in payments from May 2014 to December 2018. Payments to Morrison ceased after a new school board majority was elected in late 2018.
According to the indictment, Morrison did not disclose district contractor payments as income each year from 2014 to 2018. He states that in an effort to further conceal the payments, he did not no longer produced federal income tax returns for the years 2015-2018. In this way, prosecutors alleged that Morrison avoided paying around $118,200 in taxes.
The indictment alleges that Morrison “used the payments from Owner A and Company A, which he deposited into his Comfort Consulting account, for personal expenses and not for legitimate business expenses.”
District’s business relationship with contractor questioned in 2018
In February 2018, the Madison Park News investigated allegations made by Mark Kimble, who was a school counselor at the time. Kimble was concerned about the 2016 sale of land formerly occupied by Monroe Elementary School, located at Dallas and Barrett avenues. In early 2018, the construction of more than 30 new homes was imminent, distressing neighbors who had enjoyed the peace and quiet of a park.
The school board, under Morrison’s leadership, had sold more than 3.5 acres on the site for $60,000 to Emergency Restoration, the district’s frequent contractor, who reportedly planned to build the new homes. For comparison, in 2009 the city paid $121,000 for 1 acre, using federal grants under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The sale was also completed without a tender and without Morrison revealing his friendship with John David, the owner of Emergency Restoration. Morrison did not reveal this relationship until months after the sale was completed.
A message left for David at the company on April 7 was not returned at press time.
In the November 2018 election, Morrison decided not to run again. Kimble was elected the new president and the new majority of the board immediately severed all business ties with Emergency Restoration.
Shortly before the November 2018 election, the state released a report validating the majority of Kimble’s claims. The Michigan Department of Education, along with the Michigan Office of Internal Audit Services, found that during Morrison’s tenure as president, the district circumvented bidding requirements by dividing the invoices and classifying all repairs as “emergencies”. Emergency Restoration was also receiving fees and operating without board permission to perform “construction management work” for the district.
The state noted that all of the district’s vendors operated without a contract and no purchase orders were used by the district or its contractors, which is required by the council’s bylaws.
The 2018 state report did not substantiate claims that a “questionable relationship” existed between Morrison and Emergency Restoration – a relationship that resulted in no tenders, preferential treatment and/or Morrison benefited financially.
Reaction to the indictment
On April 6, the school district released a statement on the tax evasion charges against Morrison.
“This person (Morrison) has not been with the school district for three years or more. It is important to keep in mind that an indictment is only an accusation and a first part of the criminal justice process,” the statement read. “We do not speculate on the results and refer those who want more information to the competent authorities, with whom we cooperate and have cooperated fully.
“As always, our goal remains to provide a top-notch education to public school children in the Madison District. As a public school district, we continue to implement the many positive things that the community, school board, staff and administration have created and maintained, such as the bond project, sports and after-school programs in courses, as well as student success in our classrooms.”
In an April 7 phone interview, Kimble said he thought there was a lot more to come.
“I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Kimble said. “It is absolutely heartbreaking when opportunities are stolen from children by adults who have been entrusted with their future. It’s a sad day for the Madison Eagles.
Call editor Andy Kozlowski at (586) 498-1046.