Conyers Defends Letter Involved in Wife’s Bribery Case

June 30, 2009

Before U.S. Rep. John Conyers was for a waste injection well in Romulus, he stood with fellow Democratic Rep. John Dingell who was against it.

In 2003, the influential husband of Monica Conyers appeared at a public hearing in Romulus, standing with fellow Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, who was dead set against a planned hazardous waste injection well in that city.

“We’re trying to keep the God-given resources that this area is blessed with as healthy and as clean as possible,” Conyers told an audience on April 21, 2003.

Early today, John Conyers offered an explanation as to why his position changed before he sent a letter on July 17, 2007, to the Environmental Protection Agency in support of Greektown businessman Dimitrios (Jim) Papas’ efforts to transfer permits that would restart the controversial, leak-prone well.

In a statement e-mailed to the Free Press just after midnight, Conyers’ office said he “determined that this was something the EPA should reconsider” based “on the context of the congressman’s representational duties to his constituents,” including the Detroit police and firemen’s pension board, which was heavily invested in the waste well operation.

The congressman’s letter did not address specific questions put to his spokeswoman by the Free Press, including whether or not John Conyers knew whether his wife had financial ties to Papas when he wrote the supportive letter to the EPA. John Conyers has repeatedly refused to be interviewed directly about the letter, or his wife.

The statement from Conyers’ spokeswoman went on to note that federal prosecutors cleared him of any involvement in the bribery investigation into Conyers’ wife.

But Sam Riddle, the one-time political consultant and aide to Monica Conyers, told the Free Press last week that earlier in 2007, before John Conyers sent the EPA letter, Monica Conyers had indirectly received $10,000 from a deal Riddle had with Papas. It’s unclear whether John Conyers then knew of any financial ties between his wife and Papas.

The Free Press also has learned that Papas was a political supporter of Monica Conyers. He contributed $1,500 in 2005 to her successful run for City Council. He also cohosted a fund-raiser that brought $12,250 to her campaign, records show. Riddle, who spoke exclusively to the Free Press for Monday editions, said the 2007 EPA letter from John Conyers was generated by Monica Conyers after she arranged a $20,000 consulting contract for Riddle with Papas. One of Papas’ companies — Environmental Geo- Technologies — had contracted with the Detroit Police and Firemen’s Retirement System to operate the deep-injection well, in which the system had invested millions.

Read more: (Todd Spangler and Jim Schaefer, “John Conyers Defends Waste-Well Letter,” Detroit Free Press, 6/30/09)