House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has been implicated in the corruption scandal involving his wife Detroit City Council member Monica Conyers, reports The Detroit Free Press.
As in any alleged bribery scheme, it’s a little convoluted. But here goes: Monica Conyers’s former chief of staff Sam Riddle told the paper that John Conyers’s congressional office drafted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of a company that is now accused of making an indirect kickback to the congressman’s wife.
While Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Terrence Berg says that ”We didn’t have any evidence the congressman was knowingly or intentionally involved in Ms. Conyers’ illegal conduct,” Riddle’s claims certainly raise some red flags. Riddle says that Monica Conyers got him a consulting job with entrepreneur Dimitrios (Jim) Papas in 2007. The job paid $20,000, out of which Riddle claims he gave Monica Conyers $10,000 in cash as a finder’s fee.
As Riddle told the Free Press:
“While I felt it was a bit exorbitant, it didn’t feel that bad given the workload, which was nil,” Riddle said, adding, “It was clear he was dealing with me because of Monica, not because of any special skill set he was hoping to gain with me.”
One of Papas’ companies, Environmental Geo-Technologies (EGT), needed federal approval for an agreement to operate the Romulus hazardous waste injection wells for Detroit’s Police and Fire Retirement System. Riddle told the Free Press that John Conyers sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Papas’ behalf to make sure the agreement went through. As proof, Riddle provided a draft of the letter, which a staffer in John Conyers’ office sent to his wife’s office with a cover page saying ”Draft Letter for approval.” The letter, which Riddle says was generated by his boss, is identical to the final letter that was sent to the EPA.
The letter starts off by noting that the EPA had terminated the permits necessary to operate the injection wells, which may “constitute a denial of EGT’s due process rights.” It then goes on to note that “it is my undertanding” that all noncompliance issues have been resolved and that EGT is very committed to the project. The EPA ultimately rejected Conyers’s request.
While contacting a federal agency regarding a matter in which he had a financial interest would be a clear violation of House ethics rules, it is unclear if the congressman knew about any alleged financial connection between his wife and Papas.
The Free Press also included these “additional facts” at the end of the article:
The Detroit police and fire pension fund’s investment in a star-crossed Romulus deep-injection well project is one of several troubling deals involving the city’s public pensions.
In a series of investigations, the Free Press has revealed that the city’s two pension funds — one for police and fire, the other for general city employees — have:
• Lost more than $2 billion, 30% of their value, during an 18-month period ending in December.
• Lost about $90 million on three bad deals alone in 2008 in which warning signs appeared to be obvious.
• Spent $380,000 in the past year for pension trustees, staffers and lawyers to travel the globe to attend conferences, including one trustee who spent more than $100,000.
In the Romulus project, the police and fire fund invested more than $42 million in the wells, which are widely opposed by Romulus and surrounding communities. The fund has written off $32 million of that debt, and put the wells’ value at $10 million.