More on Corruption in Zoning

by in News

United States v. Plowman, No. 11-3781, 2012 WL 5846243 (7th Cir., Nov. 20, 2012)

Once again, I will briefly return to the subject of corruption in zoning. This time around, the case involves unethical pressure on members of the local board of zoning appeals. The case comes to us from Indianapolis, where a former law enforcement officer was elected to a position with the city council. Ultimately, he became the chairman of the council development committee, and as such had significant influence in who got appointed to the local zoning board. Over time he saw to it that his campaign manager was appointed.

The FBI stepped in and undertook a sting action, sending an agent to meet with the defendant, posing as the owner of a number of strip clubs with an interest in developing a new property in Indianapolis. The defendant assured the FBI agent that for a fee, he could get the zoning board to approve the location as well as the necessary permits and licenses regarding tobacco and alcohol.

What always astounds me about these cases is the small amount of money involved. The defendant was paid $8000 for his “influence” which he himself characterized as “control of the board of zoning appeals.”

The defendant attempted to defend on the grounds of entrapment, but both the trial court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals could find no legitimate grounds upon which to base an entrapment defense. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to 40 months in prison as well is two years of supervised release.