Longtime Kwame Kilpatrick fundraiser Emma Bell is expected to emerge from the background today and testify the former mayor forced her to pay more than $286,000 in cash kickbacks.
The 68-year-old Detroiter has been a consistent figure in Detroit and Wayne County political circles over the years. Never the headliner, the former county official hovered outside the spotlight, helping the boldface names, connecting movers and shakers and making money along the way.
Here’s a tour through Bell’s background, courtesy of The Detroit News archive:
Jan. 1, 2002: Mayor-elect Kwame Kilpatrick, sworn in Sunday as mayor, kicks off five days of celebration Wednesday to herald his election as the city’s youngest leader.
Kilpatrick’s wife, Carlita, will host more than 600 people at a first lady’s luncheon Wednesday in the Roostertail restaurant, which overlooks the Detroit River. The $50-per-person event, which is sold out, will showcase youth talent for business, community and elected officials.
“The theme is dedicated sisterhood, strong motherhood, perpetual womanhood,” said Emma Bell, who helped coordinate the luncheon. “The first woman is really interested in showcasing young students that are doing things.”
Aug. 24, 2008: Bell attends the Democratic Convention in Denver as a delegate on the Credentials Committee. She is pictured at far right.
Oct. 19, 2008: Kwame Kilpatrick often relied on Bell to set up meetings with business people who benefited from no-bid contracts.
On Aug. 21, 2006, Bell set up a meeting between Kilpatrick and businessman Angelo D’Alessandro, whose companies had benefited from approximately $30 million in no-bid contracts, mostly from the city and the water department.
A second meeting, on March 7, 2007, was at the Detroit Breakfast House. D’Alessandro and his family have given the former mayor more than $30,000 in campaign donations.
Bell also set up a meeting for Aug. 31, 2006, with Kathy and Mark Leipsitz of Grosse Pointe. A few weeks later, their, firm Shelbourne Development, began discussions with the city to buy the Brodhead Armory. The deal was later scuttled by City Council after an anonymous letter was distributed warning them that the husband-and-wife team had partnered with the mayor’s father.
Meanwhile, Kilpatrick has paid Bell more than $400,000 since 2005.
Dec. 30, 2010: Bell owes $153,848 in delinquent state and federal taxes, records show. Since 2002, the state and IRS have filed four tax liens against Bell ranging in size from $4,585 to $111,839.
Strategic Staffing Solutions has ties to figures involved in the City Hall corruption investigation. The firm received a $4 million contract to install electronic warning signs in Campus Martius and elsewhere in Detroit. Derrick Miller, former chief information officer for Detroit who was indicted earlier this month alongside Kilpatrick, was involved in awarding the contract.
Sept. 21, 2011: Bell is charged in federal court with two counts of tax evasion. According to the FBI:
“Bell received payments from the Kilpatrick-related entities totaling over $900,000, none of which she reported as income to the Internal Revenue Service. At the direction of Kilpatrick, Bell split her commission checks with him, giving him cash whenever she received a check of $5,000 or more. When Kilpatrick’s portion of the commission checks exceeded $10,000, Bell would make multiple deliveries of cash to Kilpatrick on different occasions so that she would not cause her bank to create a currency transaction report by obtaining over $10,000 in cash at one time. Bell also failed to report gambling winnings, interest, and other income during this time period.”
Oct. 3, 2011: Bell pleads guilty to two counts of tax evasion. Under the plea deal, Bell agrees to cooperate against Kilpatrick and prosecutors will recommend she spend no more than 18 months in prison.
July 10, 2012: Bell is among 51 former high-ranking Wayne County officials who receive free lifetime health benefits from the county. Bell is former director of community affairs for the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.