It was a stormy 24 hours for Kansas City Councilman Michael Brooks that included accusations of sending nude photos of himself, admissions of an improper relationship with a woman, and counter allegations of blackmail.
Yes, Brooks said, he had made a “terrible mistake” in sending sexually charged online messages to the woman. But no, he said, there was no pressure on him because of that to direct $15,000 in city money to a youth event that was later canceled and became the subject of a police investigation.
Instead, he said Thursday afternoon, surrounded by reporters after a city council meeting, the real blackmail had come from the woman he had been messaging.
The woman, still unidentified, had asked him for $60,000 to keep quiet, he said. But rather than pay it, he’d gone to the FBI.
At City Hall, which has seen very little scandal in recent years, it was stunning news.
Yet the drama went largely unmentioned publicly by his colleagues as Brooks sat among them for their regular weekly meetings on Thursday.
“Not good,” is all Councilman Ed Ford would say when asked about the controversy as he left the council chambers.
Late Wednesday night, Brooks acknowledged in an email to his colleagues that he had been “totally out of line” in sending the online messages to the woman last year.
“I want to apologize for the horrible lack of judgment concerning my involvement with this lady,” Brooks wrote.
But he and his lawyer said that had nothing to do with his effort to direct $15,000 in city funds for a youth development event featuring boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“They are completely unrelated,” said his attorney, John Picerno.
Brooks, 51, reiterated that in the email after a TV news broadcast Wednesday night in which the woman made that connection.
The woman, photographed in silhouette, said she conversed online, in text messages and on the phone with the Baptist minister and married father of four who she first met through Facebook.
Some of the messages Brooks allegedly sent included photographs, 41 Action News reported. Among those shown on the TV report was that of a man’s nude torso, his genital area blurred.
The woman said in the report that she shared the photos with organizers of the youth event, who later convinced Brooks to help them fund it with city tax dollars.
Brooks denied any connection between his relationship with the woman and the event, challenging the veracity of the TV story.
It was the woman, he said, who had attempted to extort money from him.
“As I have stated before there is no connection between her blackmail attempt, and the Mayweather event,” he wrote the council. “I just want to take this opportunity to offer my apology jeopardizing your trust, and for disrespecting my position.”
Over the past several months, Brooks has repeatedly justified seeking the city money. But until this week he volunteered no information about a rumored relationship.
In interviews with The Star before the broadcast, Picerno declined to go into details of the relationship, but said Brooks never met the woman in person and there was no impropriety.
“On the record, the only thing I’m going to say is it was a personal matter between her and him and he doesn’t want to have any comment on it other than that,” Picerno said.
Brooks came in contact with her through persons who asked him to help her, the lawyer said.
“He was first approached to help this woman and he tried to do that,” Picerno said. After a while “it escalated a little bit,” he said, but declined to describe in what way.
“They had brief contact,” Picerno said. “They never met in person and it was completely unrelated to his public life.”
If anyone had ideas about using the relationship to pressure Brooks into providing city money, Picerno said, it wouldn’t have worked. He said Brooks, pastor at Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church, long ago informed key figures at his church, as well as his wife, of what transpired online.
“He has dealt with that in his personal life,” Picerno said. “With his church in the manner it was meant to be dealt with and his family in the manner it was meant to be dealt with.
“Beyond that I don’t think it’s really anyone’s business.”
There has been extensive press coverage of the $15,000 payment over the past nine months.
Last fall, community organizer Ossco Bolton and his anti-violence program POSSE requested $15,000 in seed money from the city to bring Mayweather to Kansas City for a youth event.
Brooks was supportive and went to City Manager Troy Schulte, who ordered that a check be cut.
However, before the event could be arranged, critics protested, saying Mayweather was a poor role model for youth after being charged with domestic violence. Other financial backers dropped out and the event was canceled.
By that time, Bolton had already spent much of the $15,000. When the city asked for its money back, Bolton refused, saying he was planning a substitute event.
Kansas City fraud detectives spent months looking into the matter after city officials filed a police report that alleged stealing by deceit.
In May, the police department’s nearly 300-page investigative report was released, detailing Bolton’s spending. It showed he spent thousands of dollars trying to organize the event, but also thousands of dollars on what appeared to be personal expenses.
After reviewing the report, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office took no action.
“At this time,” prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said then, “the evidence does not appear to be sufficient to file criminal charges.”
As of Thursday that hadn’t changed, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said.
Reached by phone Thursday, Bolton denied that he attempted to pressure Brooks into providing city funds for his event and said, instead, he tried to protect him.
“Brooks is my friend,” Bolton said, declining further comment.