Warnock indicted in CMU bribes
Former Madison County engineer Rudy Warnock and three Canton officials have been indicted by a federal grand jury on bribery charges stemming from controversy during Warnock’s tenure with Canton Municipal Utilities in 2016-2017.
Warnock was indicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.
Former CMU Commissioner Cleveland Anderson was indicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery. Former CMU commissioner Andrew Grant was indicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud.
Current Canton Alderman and Mayor Pro Tempore Eric Gilkey, who also serves as a vice president at CMU, was indicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud.
The indictment was actually handed down on Dec. 8, 2021, but unsealed this week.
According to the indictment, the four conspired to “corruptly influence and reward members of the Board of Aldermen of Canton and members of the Board of Commissioners of CMU…involving things of value of $5,000 or more…” in exchange for Warnock receiving contracts.
Warnock was ousted in January 2016 as the engineer for the Madison County Board of Supervisors during a sweeping change where three new supervisors were elected.
Prior to the ousting, Warnock had served as county engineer for several years and during a seven-year period had billed the county over $20 million for work.
A controversial airport feasibility study to the tune of $1.2 million between Warnock and MCEDA was a hot topic for supervisors campaigning against Warnock’s alleged corruption.
Eight months after the county ousting, Warnock was hired by CMU to become engineer.
According to the indictment, Warnock paid Anderson, who made the motion to hire Warnock, along with Gilkey and Grant in exchange for the appointment. Payments included concert tickets in New Orleans, luxury suite tickets to a New Orleans Saints football game, along with cash payments.
Warnock’s tenure at CMU was rife with controversy from the beginning when the ousted chairman of the CMU board, Silbrina Wright, alleged corruption from the get-go. One month after Warnock’s hiring, the CMU board voted to end a practice of recording its public meetings for transparency purposes.
Shortly after being hired on as CMU engineer, former Madison County Board Attorney Mike Espy was hired as chief legal counsel at CMU, putting Warnock and Espy again in a working relationship. Espy was not mentioned in the federal bribery indictment. He has since been hired back as attorney for the county supervisors.
Two months after Warnock’s hire, the CMU board ousted the general manager and increased the overall operating budget by $540,000 to nearly $13 million. At that point, Warnock then declared a sewer emergency and the board was discussing the possibility of floating a bond upwards of $30-40 million to address sewer needs for the city.
Espy and Warnock were both later fired in 2016 and it was at that point Warnock alleged in a lawsuit filing that Anderson had offered to kill Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler and Madison County Journal Associate Publisher Michael Simmons for $10,000 with use of a New Orleans hitman. No criminal charges were ever filed.
Warnock ultimately had billed CMU $1.15 million for four months of work at CMU. He later sued CMU for $6.3 million. That lawsuit was later dismissed by a federal judge.
All defendants were released after posting a $10,000 bond. Both Warnock and Anderson are scheduled to have an initial appearance on Nov. 30 in front of U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate.
According to the court docket, Anderson and Gilkey are expected to have pleaded guilty to their charges on Nov. 21.