A federal grand jury has indicted the mayor of Muncie on a charge that he accepted a bribe to award city contracts a specific company. As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, the charge faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
A week before being arrested on Monday morning at his home, Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was indicted by a federal grand jury with one count of “theft of government services.” That’s according to US Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Josh Minkler.
“As mayor, Dennis Tyler has held a position of public trust. It is the highest elected position in the city of Muncie. As alleged in the indictment, between 2014 and August of 2016, Mayor Dennis Tyler broke that trust.”
Minkler says between 2014 and 2016, Tyler accepted a $5,000 “illegal cash payment” to steer city work to an unnamed company in Gaston that “performed demolition, excavation, and construction services.” Minkler calls the contracts “lucrative.”
Minkler also says Tyler received the bribe through Tracy Barton, Muncie Sanitary District’s Superintendent of Sewer Maintenance and Engineering. Barton was arrested in 2018. He’s set to face a federal trial next year on similar charges of illegal payments for city contracts.
The federal charge carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000. Minkler says an automatic “not guilty plea” was entered in court. Tyler has been released from jail.
Minkler says the decision of whether Tyler will remain Muncie mayor is “up to him.”
“In court today, he represented to the judge that he’d still be employed through December 31, 2019. I only know of one job he has, so.”
Muncie does not have a deputy mayor. Earlier Monday, city council president Doug Marshall said Tyler was still in charge of the city.
Tyler did not run for re-election in November. Republican Dan Ridenour, currently a city councilman, takes office in January.
In a statement, Ridenour says, “While this has become a pattern in our community of late, I am pleased that two weeks ago voters overwhelmingly supported turning the page for a new day in Muncie.”
The arrest is the latest in a four-year FBI investigation into corruption at Muncie’s city government. Seven people have been indicted on charges, including Tyler. Minkler says the investigation is continuing.
More Into The Four Year Investigation
The FBI first searched Muncie City Hall in January 2017. The next month, the agency arrested Tyler’s appointed building commissioner, Craig Nichols, and indicted him on 34 counts of wire fraud, theft, and money laundering. Federal officials say Nichols defrauded the city of Muncie out of nearly $300,000 by billing for fake house demolitions and inflated asbestos inspections through companies he owned, using his position as building commissioner to do so. He plead guilty to two counts and is serving a two-year sentence.
In Nichols’ indictment documents, a “Muncie Official A” is referenced. At the time, city attorney Megan Quirk confirmed that meant Tyler.
“On that it says a Muncie city official who appointed the building commissioner,” said Quirk in 2017. “That is the mayor, because he would make that appointment.”
In July of this year, Tyler’s appointed head of the Muncie Sanitary District, Nikki Grigsby, was arrested. The US Attorney’s office says Grigsby used her authority to approve contractors to steer work to a local businessman’s company, in exchange for kickbacks. She and the businessman face several similar federal charges, including wire fraud, making false statements, and falsification of documents in a federal investigation. She’s scheduled to appear in a federal court next year.