The story that follows — “Disappearing staffer turns up in Chicago” — is the second in a series of articles I reported and wrote for the Detroit Free Press in 2003-2006. My hope is that these seemingly historical footnotes will shed some light on doings and relationships involved with the text message scandal involving Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
This story was a sidebar to the main Detroit Free Press story Nov. 21, 2003 detailing how U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. used his federally-paid staffers to work on the campaigns of his political favorites, including wife Monica Conyers. Monica Conyers, who eventually got elected with hubby’s considerable help, is now a Detroit city council member and chief defender of Kilpatrick.
A major unnamed source for these stories was Deanna Maher, then chief of staff of Conyers’ Downriver office. Maher has since gone on the record. Before bringing her allegations to the Free Press late in 2002, Maher laid everything out for agents of the FBI in Detroit. They did nothing.
When a previous Detroit congressman, Charles Diggs, used congressional staffers to do personal work in his family funeral home, he was indicted, charged and convicted of various counts of fraud. I will be writing about the case and comparing it to Conyers’ behavior.
I’ve always wondered, and maybe some savvy reader can help me here, what is the difference between assigning a federally-paid employee to work in a mortuary and ordering someone on government time to campaign for a politician in, say, Chicago?
Perhaps I should not be surprised that the FBI and Justice Department ignored allegations about the then ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee who is now that panel’s chairman. But it’s interesting to note that The New York Times, which for a long period liked to pontificate about the lack of spine in the House Ethics Committee, never once reported that Conyers was a subject of inquiry with the ethics committee. Wonder why.
Remember, too, that Conyers is the guy who wants, supposedly, to impeach President George W. Bush. The old saw about glass houses comes to mind. Wonder if these allegations and the House Ethics probe of Conyers had anything to do with Conyers backburnering the impeachment?
Despite denials from Conyers’ staff, congressional payroll records indicate Osowski was paid throughout the time he was working for Braun in Chicago.
This story appears with permission of the Detroit Free Press
Headline: DISAPPEARING STAFFER TURNS UP IN CHICAGO
AIDE LEFT DETROIT FOR BRAUN’S CAMPAIGN
Sub-Head:Byline: JOEL THURTELL FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Memo: SIDEBAR; SEE MAIN STORY ON PAGE 1A AND RELATED SIDEBAR ON PAGE 7A
Where was Glenn?
That was the question on the minds of staffers in U.S. Rep. John Conyers’Detroit office last week as legislative assistant Glenn Osowski was nowhere tobe found and didn’t answer his cell phone.
It was also a question for Dearborn attorney Richard Wygonik, who was countingon Osowski as Conyers’ go-to man for planning a Nov. 14 health forum inDearborn.
Wygonik was exasperated. He needed to find Osowski to work out final details but couldn’t get a straight answer other than “now he’s in Chicago for somereason.”
At Conyers’ Detroit office, aide Barbara Herard told the Free Press on Nov.13: “He’s on another assignment. He’s not in town.”
Osowski was in Chicago working on the presidential campaign of Carol MoseleyBraun.
The incident illustrates how constituents can be failed when congressionalaides mix campaign work and office duties.
Burton Wides, a spokesman for Conyers, said working on campaigns oftenadvances issues Conyers, a civil rights champion, cares most about. “It’s a positive, not a negative,” Wides said.
He said Osowski went to Chicago on Nov. 7-9 to work for Braun on his own time and then took vacation from Nov. 13 through Dec. 1 to continue working for Braun. Osowski joined Conyers’ staff in January.
Several Conyers staffers who spoke on condition of anonymity said Osowski has been working for Braun most of this month.
Still, Osowski wasn’t trumpeting his campaign work.
The Free Press called his cell phone on the morning of Nov. 13.
Osowski first said he was in Washington, then said he was traveling and on vacation “visiting my sick parents.” He said he was in the Midwest, but not in Detroit.
A few hours later, the Free Press called Braun’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, asked for Osowski and got him.
“I’m on vacation,” he said. “I stopped here at the office. I’m not working for the Braun campaign.”
Seconds later, Osowski clarified: “How did you know that I worked for the Braun campaign?”
Then: “Who says I’m working on the Braun campaign?”
“I’m a volunteer on Carol Moseley Braun’s campaign,” he said. “I’m on vacation from Conyers. How did you find out I was working here? I mean, volunteering here.”
Asked about his his sick parents, Osowski insisted that he would visit them in Milwaukee.