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Former Wilmington council president convicted of misconduct

November 15, 2021 GMT

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The former council president in Delaware’s largest city has been convicted of official misconduct after being accused of using his government position to secure a city grant for himself and a nonprofit he founded.

A New Castle County jury convicted former Wilmington council president Theopalis Gregory, 67, of the charge Monday. Gregory was acquitted on a second charge of official misconduct and a related charged of profiteering.

Gregory will be sentenced later on the misdemeanor conviction, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a presumptive sentence of up to one year of probation.

“This conviction affirms that our state will not tolerate abusing public office and enriching oneself at the taxpayers’ expense,” Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a statement. “Delawareans deserve integrity and, at the bare minimum, lawful behavior from their public officials.”

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Gregory was indicted in September 2019 after investigators found that he had used his city council position to secure a city grant for a nonprofit called Students Disabilities Advocates, or SDA. Gregory revived the entity, which had been dormant for 18 years, in October 2016, one month after losing a Democratic primary for mayor.

Prosecutors said that shortly after the 2016 election, Gregory allegedly told his would-be successor as council president, Hanifa Shabazz, that $40,000 in city grant funds were earmarked for SDA, and repeatedly pressured Shabazz, while he was still in office, to grant the request after she was sworn in.

Prosecutors also alleged that because SDA lacked nonprofit status at the time, Gregory used the Police Athletic League of Wilmington as a passthrough for the funds.

One day after Gregory left office, PAL submitted a grant application that was approved and signed by Shabazz in January 2017, requesting $40,000 for SDA as a pilot program. The grant included in its budget a $20,000 payment to Gregory, who publicly acknowledged receiving at least $15,000 personally.

Shabazz was defeated in a re-election bid last year, losing the Democratic primary.

Gregory was reprimanded in April 2019 after admitting to the Wilmington Ethics Commission his actions violated a city code provision prohibiting elected officials from using their position for personal monetary gain or to influence others’ behavior.