Huffpost Politics

Monica Conyers Resigns From Detroit City Council

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DETROIT — Just months after spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to oust former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the beleaguered city of Detroit was spared another round Monday when City Councilwoman Monica Conyers resigned her seat without a fight.

Conyers, 44, the wife of powerful and respected Democratic congressman John Conyers, quietly had a staffer bring the City Clerk's office a one-paragraph letter announcing her resignation three days after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery for her vote on a sludge hauling contract.

Prosecutors said John Conyers knew nothing of his wife's wrongdoing, and he has been cleared of involvement in the bribery case.

More than a year ago, Kilpatrick was confronted with stepping aside or being forced out as mayor over a text-messaging sex scandal. Conyers watched as Kilpatrick lost a monthslong fight to hang on and eventually went to jail.

Conyers faced equally strong demands from colleagues to relinquish her council seat.

"What happened today was necessary. It was not something that was easy," City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. said. "The next step is for the City Council to really get back to business as usual."

Earlier Monday, before Conyers' letter was delivered, Cockrel had led a grim contingent of six council members calling for her resignation and threatening to otherwise force her from her $85,000-per-year post. Cockrel said he had spoken to Conyers on Sunday and was told she needed more time to make a decision.

Conyers' surprise resignation, effective July 6, saved the council from hiring an outside lawyer and pursuing the same forfeiture of office proceedings that hounded Kilpatrick before his decision to plead in two criminal cases and walk away from the mayor's office. Kilpatrick had faced perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice charges for lying to a jury during a 2007 whistle-blowers' trial.

"That was a very long, painful and frankly embarrassing process for the city of Detroit," Cockrel said of the movement against Kilpatrick.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox also had warned he would take court action against Conyers if she refused to resign by Tuesday.

Conyers admitted Friday to taking bribes from Houston-based Synagro Technologies in exchange for her vote on a $47 million sludge hauling deal. The council voted 5-4 in favor of the Synagro contract with Conyers' support. She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing.

By early afternoon Conyers had not shown up for work at City Hall, spokeswoman Denise Tolliver said. Conyers did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment Monday.

Her name will remain on the Aug. 4 nonpartisan primary ballot. Her seat will stay vacant through the end of the year, Cockrel said.

Conyers' name surfaced last summer as part of the Synagro scandal after her former spokesman, Sam Riddle Jr., revealed he had been questioned by the FBI. Riddle said at the time that he believed Conyers was a target of the probe.

Voted into office four years ago primarily on her husband's name, the defiant first-term councilwoman told The Associated Press in September she wasn't concerned about the investigation.

"Every day we get information that we didn't have in the very beginning, and at this table we have to make tough choices," Conyers said, explaining her vote on the Synagro contract.

It wasn't the only time she changed her stance on a major issue.

After initially calling for Kilpatrick to leave office, Conyers voted in May 2008 against forfeiture of office proceedings and the council's move to have Gov. Jennifer Granholm use her executive powers to remove Kilpatrick. The council approved both measures on 5-4 votes.

But her temper raised more eyebrows than how she voted.

In December 2005, Conyers and another woman got into a fight during a birthday party for a lawyer. No charges were filed. During an April 2008 public hearing, she called Cockrel "Shrek," a reference to the bald, green movie ogre, as the two verbally sparred. Conyers had similar public spats with two other council members earlier this spring.

There are lessons to be learned, Cockrel said.

"She didn't fall out of the sky into her seat. She was voted there," he told the AP on Monday.