Indiana mayor indicted over alleged bribe for contract

A central Indiana mayor has been indicted on a federal charge of theft of government funds for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe in exchange for a public contract

A central Indiana mayor was arrested Monday after being indicted for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe in exchange for a public contract.

The theft of government funds charge unsealed Monday alleges Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler accepted the bribe from an unidentified company in exchange for the awarding of public works projects in Muncie.

The indictment handed down last week said the 76-year-old mayor received the cash through Tracy Barton, the Muncie Sanitary District’s former superintendent of sewer maintenance and engineering. Barton was indicted last year on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, falsification of documents and witness tampering.

The bribe was paid sometime between 2014 and Aug. 25, 2016, the indictment said.

Tyler was arrested at his home Monday morning, FBI spokeswoman Chris Bavender said.

Tyler was arraigned Monday and an automatic not guilty plea was entered for him, U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said at a news conference. Tyler was later released from custody.

“Public officials are entrusted to perform a public service and to legitimately conduct business in the best interest of the community that they represent,” Minkler said. “Tyler not only betrayed the trust of his community, but violated federal law, and all in an effort to serve his own personal interests. My office intends to prosecute Tyler to the full extent of the law.”

The charge Tyler faces carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine, Minkler said.

Tyler is a Democrat who has been mayor for eight years after serving in the Indiana House. He did not seek reelection this year. It wasn’t immediately known whether he had a lawyer.

Tyler’s indictment came amid an ongoing federal investigation that has resulted in Muncie's former building commissioner pleading guilty to money laundering and wire fraud. Craig Nichols was sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $218,000 in restitution to the City of Muncie, the Muncie Sanitary District and developer Dannar Construction.

Prosecutors alleged Nichols used sham bidding practices and submitting fake invoices to steer work to companies he owned and then billed the city more than $376,000 for demolition work that was either never performed or performed at inflated prices.