City Council member Monica Conyers, the wife of powerful Democratic congressman John Conyers, pleaded guilty Friday to accepting cash bribes in exchange for supporting a sludge contract with a Houston company.
Conyers, a 44-year-old fiery first-term council member, spoke quietly as she pleaded guilty in federal court to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery, responding only to questions from Judge Avern Cohn.
She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when she's sentenced.
"This has been a trying time for the Conyers family and, with hope and prayer, they will make it through this as a family," said a spokesman for John Conyers. "Public officials must expect to be held to the highest ethical and legal standards. With this in mind, Mr. Conyers wants to work towards helping his family and city recover from this serious matter."
Prosecutors accused Monica Conyers of accepting two payments from a Synagro Technologies official in late 2007 in exchange for supporting the sludge contract. They said Conyers received envelopes containing cash on Nov. 20, 2007 in the parking lot of a Detroit community center and on Dec. 4 of that year in a McDonald's parking lot.
In November 2007, Conyers voted in favor of the Synagro contract. Before and after her vote, the U.S. attorney's office said she received cash payments from an individual sent by Rayford Jackson, a paid consultant for Synagro.
Conyers is the most prominent person snagged in the Synagro corruption investigation. Jackson and another person who worked for the company already had pleaded guilty.
City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. told WJBK-TV that according to the City Charter, any elected official found guilty of a felony would have to step down from the council.
Cockrel said he would speak with city lawyers about the council's next steps.
The Synagro sludge contract was rescinded in January.
The council voted 5-4 in November 2007 to award a $47-million-a-year contract to Synagro to recycle wastewater sludge and build a state-of-the-art incinerator to replace one that belches yellow plumes over a poor neighborhood.
In January, Synagro's Michigan representative, Jim Rosendall, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. His plea agreement described how he distributed cash and other gifts to officials.
Jackson pleaded guilty on June 15.