It's Not Just Personal Anymore
Even though I think it's important to hold public officials accountable, I never had a problem with U.S. Rep. John Conyers' perpetual silence about his wife, Monica, the one-time Detroit City Council member who pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy last year. Even as recently as a few days ago, when Congressman Conyers (D-Mich.) refused to answer reporters' questions about his wife, I just met it with a shrug. After all, as far as I could see, he'd never had anything to do with her problems and hadn't seemed to be even in proximity of her dirt. Why then should he have to answer for her low-rent felonies?
And it might be natural for people to assume that a husband has more than just passing knowledge of his wife's shenanigans, but there hadn't been much to suggest impropriety on his part. Being married to an admitted criminal isn't a crime. So like I said, I really saw no problem with his reticence.
Now, if the recent testimony of a local businessman is to be believed, Monica Conyers appears to have drawn her venerated husband into her mess after all.
Prosecutors contend Conyers pressured Papas to hire Riddle as a consultant, after Conyers generated what appears to be a favor from her husband, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Detroit Democrat, for Papas.
In a signed July 2007 letter shown to jurors, the veteran congressman supported a controversial Papas-operated, hazardous-waste injection well in Romulus that he previously had opposed. Papas issued a statement last summer denying any wrongdoing and insisting that Riddle's hiring was unrelated to the letter.
Papas said he first paid Riddle $10,000 in 2006 as a favor to Monica Conyers, because she told him that she needed to supplement Riddle's income. He said he didn't want to make enemies with the councilwoman.
Then, Papas testified that he paid Riddle another $10,000 in July 2007 after Monica Conyers showed him a letter from her husband supporting the injection well, which had generated lots of political opposition.
Papas said Monica Conyers told him: "I helped you, now you need to help me."
I don't know if the allegation is true -- and it may be easy for some to believe that it isn't, given that so many of the central figures in this trial seem so unencumbered by ethics or honesty. But that's also exactly why the contention matters, because it has been put out there in a federal corruption trial involving some of the most nauseating political figures in recent Detroit history.
If nothing else, the congressman should set the record straight on this right away -- assuming, of course, that he is indeed untainted by his wife's scandal.
I still say he doesn't owe us any explanation for his relationship with Monica or for her behavior. And I know he's not the one on trial here, so, legally, he doesn't have to do anything. But, in my opinion, a legislator with Conyers' admirable history should acknowledge that the public does have a right to know whether one of its longest-serving congressmen wrongfully used his influence to help his wife profit from her misdeeds.
Because corruption among elected officials, even married ones, isn't personal. That's everyone's business.
Do you agree? Given the allegation involving Congressman Conyers, do you think he has any obligation to address whether he had any role in his wife's scandal? Or do you think he should be left alone and allowed to maintain his silence? Share your thoughts.