Kickback scheme: Former Vallejo public works manager gets prison term for taking bribes
A former landscape manager for Vallejo was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $10,000 for orchestrating a scheme to solicit thousands of dollars in bribes from city contractors seeking federal community block grant funds, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Donald Burton, 51, who pleaded guilty to the charges on Aug. 1, was sentenced in federal court in Sacramento.
“When public officials take bribes, they put their greed ahead of the interests of the people they serve,” said Sean Regan, special agent in charge of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “With the help of private citizens who take a stand against corrupt behavior, the FBI will continue to protect the integrity of government at all levels.”
Burton was employed as a landscape manager in the Public Works Engineering Division of the city of Vallejo, officials said. His role required regularly contracting local landscaping companies for projects in Vallejo.
In one project, Burton sought a 10 percent kickback from the owner of a maintenance company in exchange for directing contracts to that company. The owner tipped off the FBI, which opened an investigation.
Vallejo receives substantial federal funding — more than $500,000 in Community Development Block Grants went to the city from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, officials said.
The block grants are given to local governments to finance infrastructure improvement programs such as parks, playgrounds and landscaping. The grants must be used in a way that predominantly benefits low- and moderate-income people, with the goal of combatting poverty and urban blight.
In an undercover operation, the business owner who tipped off the FBI met with Burton to work out further contract details. In those meetings, Burton told the business owner to stretch 10-day jobs into 15 days so the two could divide the profit.
The excess amount added up to $5,000 per job, prosecutors said, with Burton agreeing to take $2,000. Burton was arrested on June 7 after he met the business owner and took the $2,000 bribe payment.