Indicted Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland: 'I Didn't Crawl into this Job, and I'm Not Gonna Crawl Out'

March 04, 2021, 11:00 AM by  Allan Lengel

Gabe Leland: "It's sort of sad to say."


After being coy about his intentions about a 2021 re-election run while facing a felony corruption charge, Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland makes it clear: He's definitely not running.

In January, he suggested he might, telling Deadline Detroit: “I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m at, so stay tuned, as they say." 

But during an interview Wednesday night, he said:

"It's sort of sad to say that I'm not running for re-election, that I'm choosing to leave and go down a different path. What I want to say is, I’m proud of a lot things I've done and the effect I've had on lots of residents." 

Asked if he has regrets about the circumstances of his criminal case, he said:

"There's a lot to do in life, so I feel like I don't necessarily have to be elected to move on and continue to help people." 

That said, he said he plans to leave office with his head held high. 'I didn't crawl into this job, and I'm not gonna crawl out of the job."

Defense Attorney's Remarks

Leland couched his remarks as if he has a choice. State law prohibits felons from state or local offices. His comment in January left open to interpretation the possibility he might fight his criminal case, contrary to what his attorney, Steve Fishman, has said.

"There's a lot to do in life," the outgoing councilman says.

Fishman issued a statement last summer indicating Leland, 38, planned to plead guilty in Wayne County Circuit Court to a felony charge of accepting a campaign contribution in cash, a violation of state law. A court date has been delayed because of Covid, and he's not expected to get jail time.

He was originally charged with bribery in federal court for allegedly taking $15,000 from a businessman. But Fishman was able to broker a deal where he faces a lesser charge in state court. In exchange, the federal charges are expected to be dropped.

In 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Leland for conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of bribery.

Federal authorities alleged that he conspired with campaign worker Elisa Grubbs to solicit and accept $15,000 in cash and free auto body work from local business owner Bob Carmack, who wore an FBI wire. Leland received half that payment in cash.

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Leland said he's proud of his accomplishments during nearly eight years on the council as the District 7 representative. He said he's helped create jobs, lure businesses to Detroit and prevent people from losing their homes due to foreclosures. 

"It’s part of the job, our ability to actually help people and affect change in people's lives," he said. "That is what woke me up in the morning." 

Voter Betrayal?

Some in the community and the media suggested that he should have left office after he was indicted for bribery in 2018, and that he may have betrayed his constituents by getting entangled in criminal charges. To that, he responds: 

"I would love for you to go out and hear some of the stories about some of the people that I help because, that's the real side, of all the work that's been done. There's still a lot of support out there...and there will continue to be a lot of support out there for me for whatever I choose to do."

Leland served in the Michigan House before winning a four-year council term in 2013.

He credits his parents, both social workers, with instilling the need to serve people. In 2018, his father Burton Leland, a former state lawmaker and Wayne County Commissioner, died of cancer at age 69.

Leland said he's not sure what the next chapter of his life will be, but wants to continue helping the people of Detroit.

"My plan was never to do this for the rest of my life. And so, looking back, there's a lot of accomplishments. There's a lot of positives. 

"I got my whole career ahead of me. There's a lot that I want to accomplish and maye that's not neccesarily being an elected official."

In a Thursday morning newsletter to constituents, he says: "I come to you with a heavy heart today. ... I will not be seeking re-election for the Office of Detroit City Council in District 7.

"It’s been such an incredible journey and I could never have done it on my own.  We have worked so hard together and have accomplished many great things throughout our community.

"To all of the residents in District 7, I say thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you over the last 7 years."

"My Father, the late Burton Leland, often used the quote 'Dance with the people that brought you to the party'. He was always talking about his loyalty to the constituents. The commitment to true public service is found in that the quote. My commitment to you and to our community will not waiver. I am just as committed to you as I was when you elected me back in 2013.  I promise to be intentional about my dad’s quote, and my commitment to community, which continues to shape me as a person, and my loyalty to the city that I was born in and the city that I love." (Read complete statement)


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