DETROIT (WXYZ) — A solicitation by the Wayne County sheriff seeking cash gifts for his mother has prompted a formal complaint filed with the Wayne County Ethics Board.
In October, Sheriff Raphael Washington took to Facebook to acknowledge his mother’s birthday and solicited cash gifts, writing: “Hey family, help me celebrate my mother today...God has blessed her to see 86 years on his Earth...If any of you would like to be a blessing to mom today, feel free to cash app her,” then told Facebook friends where they could directly send her money.
Cash App is a financial platform that allows individuals to send and receive money, most often through their phones.
The posting, later confirmed by the sheriff’s office, was shared with 7 Action News by one of Washington’s Facebook friends. The post was made on Washington's personal Facebook page.
It was removed back in October following an inquiry from 7 Action News, according to a sheriff's official. A spokesman did not respond to inquires about whether donations were received, and from whom.
Reggie Crawford, a former sheriff's deputy and union president, filed a formal complaint with the Wayne County Ethics Board, claiming Washington had violated a rule that prevents officials from soliciting gifts for themselves or family members.
“The policy was completely disregarded,” Crawford said. “The code of ethics were completely disregarded and disobeyed.”
In 2012, Wayne County created an ethics ordinance setting standards for conduct among county leaders. It was borne out of corruption and self-dealing scandals involving then-County Executive Robert Ficano and his administration.
One of the prohibitions reads: “Except as permitted by this chapter, a person shall not offer, give, or agree to give any public servant nor shall a public servant solicit, demand, accept, or agree to accept from another person, a gratuity for themselves or for a relative or domestic partner.”
“If someone gave his mother some money, we have no way of knowing how much,” Crawford said. “We have no way of knowing the reason, whether the individual or company is seeking… favor from the sheriff.”
Carron Pinkins, who served as chair or the Wayne County Ethics Board until last year, said in October that Washington’s post was problematic.
“You do incur people who may come along and decide this is a way to curry favor. Donate to the sheriff’s mother. Large donations,” he said.
The complaint now goes to the seven member ethics board, with appointees from each of the county’s elected offices. If the complaint is acted upon, the board will determine whether Washington’s request crossed the line.
Philip Thomas, the current chair of the ethics board, said he had not yet seen the complaint against Washington, which was filed earlier this week. The board next meets on Wednesday.
“I think it’s most important that it’s disclosed where (donations) came from,” Crawford said. “That’s what’s most important here. The citizens of Wayne County need to know.”
A request seeking comment with the sheriff’s office did not receive a response.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at email@example.com or at (248) 827-9466.