A onetime Plymouth city official has been sent to prison for taking bribes and kickbacks in exchange for awarding city contracts.
Ronnie E. Taggart, 51, of Golden Valley, was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday in federal court in Minneapolis after pleading guilty to wire fraud.
"The public trusts that their government officials are honest and will always work in the best interest of the citizens they represent," FBI Special Agent in Charge Jill Sanborn said in a statement. "The defendant took advantage of that trust and used it for his own gain."
According to the defendant's guilty plea and court documents:
As facilities supervisor from October 2012 through November 2016, Taggart was responsible for maintaining all buildings owned and operated by the city, and that included the authority to award contracts for projects such as building maintenance and cleaning, landscaping and snow removal.
From roughly 2014 through November 2016, Taggart sought and received bribes and kickbacks totaling nearly $60,000 in exchange for awarding contracts to various contractors outside of the competitive bidding process mandated by state law and the city's procurement policy.
Along with roughly $35,000 in cash, at times Taggart received bribes from contractors that included thousands of dollars in kitchen appliances, installation of new carpet, a concrete driveway, a garage door, a yard irrigation and sprinkler system, and extensive landscaping and electrical work.
In an effort to cover up the payoffs, Taggart instructed the contractors to submit a second, fake quotation to give the appearance that he had complied with the state statute and city policy.
He also encouraged the contractors to inflate the amount of their bids to cover the cost of the kickbacks and bribes.
No contractors have been charged, according to Tasha Zerna, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Taggart's defense argued in a court filing for a sentence of probation, saying that his crime pales in comparison to offenses involving violence or illicit drugs. He also argued that his alcoholism and drug use should have been taken into account upon sentencing, given his efforts to maintain sobriety.
In its counter-argument for 2½ to 3 years in prison, prosecutors called Taggart's crime "brazen" and noted that his annual salary was $100,000.
"He demanded and received numerous kickbacks over a 2½-year period," the prosecution's court filing read. "He only stopped when caught and fired by the city."