Rudy Warnock, who is suing Canton Municipal Utilities after it fired his engineering firm, just added murder-for-hire allegations to the mix.
In an eight page affidavit yet to be filed, the engineer alleges a Canton official offered to kill Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler and a local journalist for $10,000 each.
Madison County Journal’s Michael Simmons has penned a number of stories about Warnock’s business with the city and county, one published Aug. 31 about CMU choosing to hire Warnock, to which the engineer took exception. He complained to Cleveland Anderson, CMU board chairman, about the “misleading” headline, the affidavit states.
“The headline quite obviously was meant to imply that I had been involved in some ‘allege[d] corruption,’” the affidavit alleges. “A few weeks later, on September 18, 2016, Mr. Anderson asked me to meet him that morning at the Kroger parking lot at Highway 463/Colony Crossing. I did. I was shocked when Mr. Anderson told me he had family in New Orleans and Chicago who could ‘handle’ journalist Michael Simmons. He offered to have Mr. Simmons murdered for $10,000.00. He said: ‘Once I tell them to do it, there aren’t any take backs.’”
Warnock allegedly told Anderson he would never hurt anybody.
The affidavit alleges Anderson made the same offer a week later, this time targeting the mayor of Madison, a known foe of Warnock’s. Hawkins-Butler said she does not know Anderson.
“If this is in fact true, this is a serious situation,” Hawkins-Butler said. “I do hope there’s a thorough investigation because I believe this runs deep.”
Questioning if her “life is on the line,” she declined to comment further.
During her run for auditor, Hawkins-Butler publicly accused Warnock of a “cozy relationship” with the Madison County Supervisors, which she said resulted in Warnock receiving millions in taxpayer dollars.
The county fired Warnock as its engineer in 2015.
James Prince III, publisher of the Madison County Journal, released a statement saying the newspaper has been aware of the alleged threats prior to Warnock’s affidavit and has alerted law enforcement authorities.
“At no time has this alleged threat risen to anything more than the usual drama associated with Madison County politics, which we are far more comfortable reporting on than being a part of,” the statement reads. “Michael Simmons has done an exemplary job fulfilling the First Amendment role of the press to hold public officials accountable since he, following a long line of others who have reported the truth, took the helm at the Journal speaking truth to power, which includes the board members of Canton Municipal Utilities and their now former engineer. Frankly, we would expect to be in their crosshairs if we’re doing our job. Telling the truth carries a price and this spectacle illustrates precisely why.”
In an October meeting with CMU officials, Warnock’s affidavit alleges, Anderson requested that Warnock increase his engineering contract by $200,000 “so that ‘[he] and [his] wife can retire comfortably.’”
“I refused,” the affidavit reads.
The affidavit also alleged Anderson insisted his wife be hired to CMU’s new General Counsel Department, but general counsel Mike Espy told him it was illegal.
In December and after Warnock had allegedly “reached his limit” with Anderson’s repeated attempts to garner kickbacks, Warnock said he sent an “unflattering” text message, copying others, to Anderson.
Anderson’s alleged text response, documented in the affidavit, acknowledged his previous solicitations, but suggested they were just a “test” of Warnock’s loyalty.
“With all being said, I decided to test you Rudy to see if you were texting [sic] me, but others in the CMU ranks to gain control of CMU. And you, Eric, and Andrew call yourselves servants, WOW!!! Do you remember when I ask [sic] you about [$] 200,000 to retire (TEST); (About knowing guys in New Orleans that would do anything illegal (Test), and many more.”
Just days later, Anderson attempted to terminate Warnock’s contract and fire Espy. By the end of December, Warnock and Espy were out. The engineer responded by suing CMU for $6.3 million.
The affidavit also alleges Anderson got his position through nepotism: a swing vote for him to be appointed to the CMU board was cast by Canton Alderwoman Daphne Sims, allegedly Anderson’s niece.
Anderson and Warnock could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.