Environment, money both green
“Clean energy” advocates on the left have long regarded Conyers as a top ally. He is a harsh foe of nuclear energy and has even touted the contentious premise that the “disproportionate” location of hazardous-waste facilities in areas with large minority populations violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
With that record, many Detroit-area residents were angered by a letter he wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007. Conyers wanted a controversial hazardous-waste injection well in the Detroit suburb of Romulus transferred to a company owned by Detroit businessman Dimitrios “Jim” Papas .
An above-ground leak shut down the well in 2006; Romulus residents were bitterly opposed to reopening it. Sam Riddle, a former political consultant to Monica Conyers who is serving time in federal prison for his role in her scandal, told the Detroit Free Press in 2009 that Mrs. Conyers generated the letter after she arranged for Papas to give Riddle a $20,000 consulting contract.
Mrs. Conyers also reportedly demanded and received a $10,000 “finder’s fee” from Riddle.
Riddle provided the Free Press with a draft of a letter which a staffer in the congressman’s office sent to Mrs. Conyers’ office in Detroit. Its cover page said “Draft Letter for Approval.” That version appears identical to the final letter the congressman sent to the EPA.
The acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said there was no evidence that John Conyers knew of his wife’s illegal conduct, and he was never charged in the case. Last year, the congressman reversed himself and called on the EPA to deny permits for the project.
Wayne County Commissioner Ray Basham, a Democrat and former state senator who has long opposed reopening the hazardous-waste well at the center of the controversy, dismissed Conyers’ change of heart as an effort to limit political damage.
“He was for us before he was against us before he was for us,” said Basham in 2011. He noted that local communities spent millions of dollars in legal fees fighting the well.
Conyers may face a similar problem on housing issues. While he emphasizes his support for homeowners battered by the faltering national economy, Conyers’ own blighted properties have created headaches for neighbors in several areas of Detroit.
In Detroit, WJBK-FOX 2 reported that the lawn at one Conyers home was overrun by weeds and tall grass. A second, where Conyers’ mother once lived, had been abandoned for years. A neighbor who lived near the second home said her homeowners’ insurance had jumped from $1,700 to $7,000 per year because of the risk that the abandoned Conyers property would catch fire.
During the past decade metropolitan Detroit residents have been treated to a series of stories about dubious practices in Conyers’ congressional office, including assigning congressional staffers to babysit and tutor his children on taxpayer time and, and requiring them to work on government pay for presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun.
In 2006, the House Ethics Committee investigated the charges and admonished Conyers to take “a number of additional, significant steps to ensure that his office complies with all rules and standards regarding campaign and personal work by congressional staff.”