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Monday, September 14, 2009

Who is Monica Conyers?

Who is Monica Conyers? The political world knows Conyer as former Detroit City Council member and former president pro tempore of the Detroit 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.[2]
Conyers is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation into political corruption in the city, [3] and has pled guilty to conspiring to commit bribery. [4]

Monica Ann Esters was born October 31, 1964 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.[5] Conyers attended the University of 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.
Prior to 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 and Carl.
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 Vice President of 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),[6] she did not fight the position of the council's legal analyst that Cockrel would return to the position of Council President.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]


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 $6000 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. [10][11]

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.[13]

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.[14]
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.[15]

In February 2008, details of an exchange between Conyers and an aide to Mayor Kilpatrick, DeDan Milton, were made available through The Detroit News.[16] Conyers allegedly made reference to a gun in an argument with Milton. Conyers has denied the allegations. The police reports have since been withdrawn.[17]
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.[18] Conyers later sent an apology letter, which was rejected by Kenyatta as insincere.[19] Conyers subsequently said that re-election "might not be worth it" in view of the constant public criticism of her.[19]
In February 2009, the Detroit Free Press editorial board opined that Conyers was no longer fit for office due to her increasingly "volatile" behavior.[20]
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."[21] 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".[22]


On June 26, 2009, Conyers pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe in the Synagro sludge hauling scandal. [23] She faces five years in jail.


On June 29, 2009 Monica Conyers officially resigned from the Detroit City Council, effective July 6.[24]

US District Court judge Avern Cohn had originally set Conyers' sentencing date for Dec. 1. It was changed to Jan. 15 in November and now will be March 10.
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