Monica Conyers

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Monica Conyers
President of the Detroit City Council
In office
September 18, 2008 – May 11, 2009
Preceded by Kenneth Cockrel Jr.
Succeeded by Kenneth Cockrel Jr.
Personal details
Born (1964-10-31) October 31, 1964 (age 50)
River Rouge, Michigan

Monica Conyers (born October 31, 1964) is a former Detroit City Council member (D) and former president pro tempore of the City Council.[1] She was first elected to the Detroit City Council in 2005, and became its interim president in September 2008. She is the wife of U.S. Congressman John Conyers, a Democrat and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.[2][3]

Conyers is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation into political corruption in the city,[4] and pled guilty to conspiring to commit bribery.[5] On March 10, 2010, a federal judge sentenced her to 37 months in prison with an additional two years of supervised probation.[6]

Background[edit]

Monica Ann Esters was born in River Rouge, Michigan, on October 31, 1964. She had four brothers and one sister. She grew up with her mother in west Detroit and attended Henry Ford High School. One brother was imprisoned for robbery, another for weapons violations, and her father had a record for breaking and entering.[7] Conyers attended the University of the District of Columbia School of Law and received a Juris Doctor. She also earned a master's in Public Administration from Central Michigan University and a bachelor of arts in Secondary Education and Political Science from Bennett College.

Before being elected to the council, she worked as both a teacher for mentally challenged teens and vice administrator for Detroit Public Schools. She married John Conyers on June 4, 1990 (she was 25, he was 61). They have two sons, John James Conyers III and Carl Edward Conyers.

At midnight on September 19, 2008, former council president Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. became mayor of Detroit following the resignation of Kwame Kilpatrick. On the same day, Monica Conyers made her full transition from president pro tem of the city council to President. She returned to being president pro tem after interim Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. was defeated by Dave Bing in a special election held on May 5, 2009. Although Conyers initially wanted to investigate whether the city charter guarantees that position (which it does),[8] she did not fight the position of the council's legal analyst that Cockrel would return to the position of Council President.[9]

Positions and votes[edit]

Conyers has sometimes made headlines for breaking with her colleagues in the Michigan Democratic Party and the city council (which consists entirely of Democrats). She was critical of the party for running ads in a mayoral race in Flint, Michigan.[10] During the lengthy legal and political crisis of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Conyers was the only member of council to vote against a resolution demanding that he resign.[11]

Controversies[edit]

Synagro bribery scandal[edit]

On June 16, 2009, it was announced that Conyers had been linked to an ongoing corruption investigation in Detroit, involving alleged bribes offered by Synagro Technologies. Originally, case documents had referred only to "Council Member A" receiving bribes totaling more than $6,000 to influence passage of a contract with the city, but on June 16 the United States Attorney's Office confirmed that two Synagro representatives had named Conyers as the recipient.[12][13]

Conyers was given a pre-indictment letter and offered a plea deal in the case.[12] On June 26, 2009, Conyers was charged with conspiring to commit bribery and pleaded guilty.[14]

Financial[edit]

In January 2009, Detroit's General Retirement System notified Conyers that she owed $5,600 to the city, which included travel advances not spent on business class airfare to London. The pension board also claimed she hadn't submitted receipts for trips to Grand Cayman and Philadelphia.[15]

In April 2009, one day after denying the relation, Conyers admitted she helped her brother, Reggie Esters, a convicted felon, obtain a city job that was originally to last four months, but was extended to two years, ending only when Esters' absenteeism became an issue. Esters is reported to have submitted a false resume.[16]

Personal/professional conduct[edit]

In February 2008, details of an exchange between Conyers and an aide to Mayor Kilpatrick, DeDan Milton, were made available through The Detroit News.[17] Conyers allegedly made reference to a gun in an argument with Milton. Conyers has denied the allegations. The police reports have since been withdrawn.[18]

In April 2008, Conyers got into an argument with City Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr. during a public hearing. Cockrel reprimanded Conyers for interrupting fellow councilwoman JoAnn Watson, and Conyers then turned on Cockrel. The argument escalated until Conyers referred to Cockrel as "Shrek", after the animated film character.[19] Cockrel tried to call for a recess, but Conyers continued hurling insults. Video of the incident exists on YouTube.[20]

In February 2009, Conyers was involved in a confrontation with fellow councilmember Kwame Kenyatta. After Kenyatta insisted that Conyers submit in writing her request to cut his budget, Conyers insulted Kenyatta about his hearing aid, health, and lack of education. Conyers stated that Kenyatta needed to "learn how to talk a woman", to which Kenyatta replied that when he was with a woman, he will do so. Conyers then had to be restrained by a council staffer and a council security officer as she attempted to approach Kenyatta.[21] Conyers later sent an apology letter, which was rejected by Kenyatta as, to him, it seemed insincere.[22] Conyers subsequently said that re-election "might not be worth it" in view of the constant public criticism of her.[22]

In February 2009, the Detroit Free Press editorial board opined that Conyers was no longer fit for office due to her increasingly "volatile" behavior.[23]

In March 2009, Conyers led a group of five Detroit City Council members that blocked the transfer of ownership of Detroit Cobo Hall (the home of the North American International Auto Show) to a regional authority consisting of representatives from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. During a heated council meeting discussing the deal, she told Isaac Robinson, a white official of the Teamsters union, that most of the people that work at the show "don't look like me. They look like you."[24] She was quick to deny any implications of racism to the media when questioned about the comments. Conyers went on to claim "Black people cannot be racist".[25]

On June 26, 2009, Conyers pled guilty to accepting a bribe in the Synagro Sludge scandal.[26] Three days later, Conyers officially resigned from the Detroit City Council, effective July 6.[27] Her former chief of staff, Sam Riddle, faces prosecution as well; Riddle's trial has included wiretap recordings of conversations with and about Conyers, in which he describes her as "crazy."[28] Testimony given during Riddle's trial on February 4, 2010 indicated that Conyers often left a downtown Detroit restaurant without paying for the meal; the restaurant's owner estimated that Conyers owed him about $3,000.[29] On March 10, 2010, Conyers was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison.[30] During the sentencing hearing, Conyers requested to withdraw her guilty plea, which the judge denied.[31] She has since filed notice to appeal.[32]

Prison[edit]

Monica Conyers served just over 27 months at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia for her conviction in the bribery scandal. The prison is nicknamed “Camp Cupcake”.[33] She was released on December 21, 2012 to a residential re-entry program in the Detroit area[34] and was released to home confinement in the Detroit area on January 25, 2013. Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Ed Ross said Conyers earned 108 days of credit for good behavior and was released from federal custody officially on May 16, 2013.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Detroit City Council
  2. ^ Congressman John Conyers, Jr., official Congressional biography.
  3. ^ Egan, Paul (March 11, 2010). "Monica Conyers gets 37 months for bribes, vows appeal". Detroit News. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  4. ^ Ashenfelter, David; Elrick, M.L.; Swickard, Joe; Schaefer, Jim (January 28, 2009). "SYNAGRO SLUDGE DEAL: Kilpatricks, Conyers among 8 named in FBI bribery probe". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  5. ^ Schmitt, Ben; Swickard, Joe; Schaefer, Jim; Ashenfelter, David; Stables Battaglia, Tammy; Elrick, M.L.; Gorchow, Zachary (June 26, 2009). "SYNAGRO BRIBERY PROBE: Conyers pleads guilty to conspiracy". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  6. ^ Egan, Paul; Guthrie, Doug (March 10, 2010). "Angry Conyers vows to appeal 37-month prison sentence". Detroit News. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  7. ^ Josar, David; MacDonald, Christine (June 27, 2009). "Conyers' behavior puzzling, her friends say". Detroit News. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  8. ^ Patton, Naomi (May 7, 2009). "Conyers gears up for a fight over control of Detroit City Council". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2009-05-07. [dead link]
  9. ^ Patton, Naomi (May 9, 2009). "Cockrel can lead council again". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2009-05-10. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Monica Conyers: Dems should stay out of Flint race", The Flint Journal, November 2, 2007.
  11. ^ "Embattled Detroit mayor rejects City Council's request for him to leave office", Associated Press, March 18, 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Conyers offered deal in bribery probe". Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  13. ^ "Detroit councilwoman under scrutiny, scolds media". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  14. ^ SWICKARD, JOE; BEN SCHMITT and DAVID ASHENFELTER. Also, Free Press Staff Writers (2009-06-26). "Monica Conyers pleads guilty to conspiracy". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved $1 $2.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  15. ^ MacDonald, Christine (2009-01-24). "Conyers pays for travel advance; Council president returns $3,000 to retirement system, but she may still owe $2,600". Detroit News. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  16. ^ Detroit News, 3 April 2009, Conyers acknowledges ex-con brother after denying him
  17. ^ Report says Monica Conyers made threat
  18. ^ Pension board police reports withdrawn
  19. ^ Monica Conyers Calls Council President Ken Cockrel Shrek
  20. ^ Monica Conyers, Ken Cockrel Outburst YouTube. Posted April 11, 2008
  21. ^ Gorchow, Zachary (2009-02-11). "Insults escalated in spat between Conyers, Kenyatta". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2009-02-12. [dead link]
  22. ^ a b Gorchow, Zachary (2009-02-12). "Monica Conyers: Re-election might not be worth it". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2009-02-12. [dead link]
  23. ^ "Three strikes against Conyers". Detroit Free Press. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2009-02-12. [dead link]
  24. ^ Macomb Daily News, March 6, 2009, Cobo dispute reopens racial rift
  25. ^ Carol Cain, Detroit Free Press, March 29, 2009, Conyers sparks reaction on race, Cobo
  26. ^ Paul Egan,Detroit News June 26, 2009 [1] Monica Conyers guilty in Synagro bribery scandal
  27. ^ David Josar and Darren A. Nichols, "Conyers to resign from Detroit City Council on July 6", Detroit News, June 29, 2009.
  28. ^ "Jurors in Bribery Case Get to Hear Riddle's Take on Conyers". January 26, 2010. 
  29. ^ "Eatery owner: Conyers often walked out on check". February 4, 2010. 
  30. ^ Associated Press, "Ex-Detroit councilwoman gets 3 years for bribes," by Ed White (March 10th, 2010 - retrieved on March 10th, 2010).
  31. ^ "Monica Conyers gets 37 months in prison in Synagro bribery scandal". March 10, 2010. 
  32. ^ "A fuming Monica Conyers seeks appeal". March 11, 2010. 
  33. ^ http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/04/prosecutors_monica_conyers_mus.html Prosecutors: Monica Conyers must stay at Camp Cupcake Retrieved 2011-10-28
  34. ^ "Monica Conyers released from prison". Detroit Free Press. December 21, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  35. ^ Tresa Baldas (February 5, 2013). "Monica Conyers, Sam Riddle out of prison in time for Kilpatrick corruption verdict". Detroit Free Press.