Detroit lawmaker with criminal past allegedly still passing bad checks

DETROIT Brian Banks, the eight-time convict who won a landslide election for state representative in Michigan’s 1st district on Nov. 6, could be facing more legal troubles despite insisting he has changed his ways. Banks is facing accusations from the company that printed his campaign signs that he has yet to pay them, as well as being accused of passing bad checks to his former landlord.

“I’m a product of a single parent home – I didn’t know my father,” Banks said to WJBK. “I dropped out of high school with a 3.97 grade point average. I made poor choices, I made poor decisions, and I ended up with criminal convictions. I learned from my mistakes. I take full responsibility.”

Banks, 35, has been evicted from two homes in the Detroit suburb of Harper Woods in the last month and had a judgment for $3,751 levied against him on Oct. 31 after he bounced multiple checks to his landlord. Banks’ previous eight convictions were for credit card fraud and passing bad checks – including in Grosse Pointe Woods, one of the cities Banks would serve as representative.

“We’re supposed to live in a world and society of believing in rehabilitation,” Banks said during an interview on WXYT-AM. “I’ve worked hard to prove that I’m rehabilitated.  My past is simply that.  My past is the past.”

Banks currently has more than 20 lawsuits filed against him, with four of them coming this year. He has been evicted from five homes in the last two years and recently had his Range Rover repossessed as well.

Ira Auslander, attorney for one of Banks’ landlords Dan Sylvester, said his client is keeping all legal options open including criminal charges for the bad checks.  Michigan law states that anyone who writes a bad check for more than $500 could face a 2-year felony.

Banks, who was working as a teacher at Baker College, had eight convictions between 1998 and 2004, his last coming at age 27. He insists that he has turned his life around and points to his obtaining his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Law Degrees.

“I was a victim of the economy,” Banks said. “I, as with several of my constituents, have experienced economic challenges as well as have lived through obstacles that families face trying to better their quality of life.

“I’ve been late paying things, I’ve been slow paying things back, but I haven’t walked away from any of my debt – whether it was personal debt or campaign debt. I’m just like everyone else.”

Another potential mistake that Banks made is that he has yet to pay the company that printed his campaign signs. Sawicki and Sons, the Detroit company that produced the signs, never had a candidate stiff them on payment in 42 years until they did business with Banks.

“An eight time felon and he has changed his spots,” said Pam Sawicki, who was owed nearly $1,500 by Banks and had been trying to collect since July. “They’re the same spots are still there just a different color.

“It’s funny that [his campaign slogan] should be ‘Bank on Banks’. I’m not his bank, and that’s what he’s treating me as if, ‘oh, well, I’m a politician.  I don’t have to pay my debts.’ If this is how he runs his campaign, how is he going to run being a state representative?”

Banks claims that he finally paid off the balance to Sawicki but the outstanding lawsuits through various credit unions as well as the landlords could spell trouble for Banks before he is sworn in as state representative in January. He was elected despite the convictions thanks to a loophole in Michigan’s law against convicts holding office.

“I believe my past, as well as my education, will help me to represent my district,” Banks said. “I believe my past experiences, my education, and my poor judgment will help me to represent everyone effectively.”

Follow Jay Scott Smith on Twitter @JayScottSmith