City Council member Monica Conyers, the wife of a prominent congressman, sought political support from Baptist pastors and prayers from constituents Tuesday as her re-election bid collided with a corruption probe involving cash bribes handed over in fast-food parking lots.
A person told The Associated Press that Conyers is the “Council Member A” listed in a court document as receiving more than $6,000 for her fall 2007 vote on a multimillion-dollar sludge contract. She has not been charged. The information comes from a person with knowledge of the investigation who asked not to be named because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
No suggestion has been made that Conyers’ husband, Rep. John Conyers, (D-Mich.), has any role in the investigation and it appears unlikely to dent his nearly 45-year political career. In Washington, he said he hadn’t talked to his wife Tuesday and wasn’t aware of any discussions with prosecutors.
Monica Conyers, meanwhile, asked for prayers during her weekly public access television show, without directly addressing the scandal that has the FBI investigating how Houston-based Synagro Technologies won a $47 million-a-year contract to recycle sludge from a wastewater treatment plant.
“All these things that are going on right now … I believe in my heart that God will deliver me from them,” said Conyers, 44. “And so I say to all of the people out there: If you’re not praying for me, then you’re just adding to the problem.”
Officials at the U.S. attorney’s office did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday. After the show, Conyers ignored questions about the case or any possible plea deal.
“I’m not going to talk to you today, tomorrow, next week. What difference does it make?” Conyers told the AP.
Earlier Tuesday, Conyers met for three minutes with the influential Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit & Vicinity as one of many candidates seeking a political blessing ahead of the city’s August primary.
“As of this morning, the lady has not been indicted,” said the Rev. Oscar King, the group’s president. “We’re not passing judgment at this point because we’re being pastoral in the political process.”
Monica Conyers is a relative neophyte in elective politics compared with her husband. John Conyers, 80, has never received less than 82 percent of the vote since he was first elected to Congress in 1964. He faced no Republican opposition in the latest election.
Voters first put Monica Conyers on the Detroit council in 2005. She served as council president for about eight months until Ken Cockrel Jr. returned to the post in May after serving as interim mayor following Kwame Kilpatrick’s September resignation over a text-messaging sex scandal that sent him to jail for 99 days.
The sludge scandal broke in January when Jim Rosendall, Synagro’s Michigan representative, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. His plea agreement described how he distributed cash and other gifts to officials, including an unidentified Council Member A, to win the city business.
The probe cooled for nearly five months, at least publicly, until Rayford Jackson, a local businessman and Synagro contractor, pleaded guilty to the same charge Monday and said he gave more than $6,000 to Council Member A.
Jackson said a courier delivered $3,000 to the council member on Nov. 20, 2007, the same day Conyers joined with the majority in approving the Synagro deal 5-4. An unspecified payment was made a month earlier outside a Mr. Fish restaurant, and another $3,000 was passed in a McDonald’s parking lot in December of the same year, Jackson said.
A month before her vote, Conyers expressed concern giving the sludge contract to Texas-based Synagro would lead to the loss of jobs in Detroit, home to the ailing auto industry and plagued by some of the highest home foreclosure and unemployment rates in the country.
“I don’t understand why we can’t do that ourselves here in the city of Detroit. … I don’t see how a company that just may have 10 African-Americans is more important than the people in that community,” she said at a public hearing.
In his plea deal with prosecutors, Rosendall said $25,000 was spent after the Synagro vote to ensure that Council Member A and others in favor of the deal would not withdraw support. The contract was rescinded and Rosendall was fired after his guilty plea in January.
In a separate matter, the council in March 2007 voted to allow a yard-waste composting operation on land controlled by Rosendall. He said an “intermediary” in that deal passed $5,000 to $8,000 to Council Member A.