Whistleblowin’ Nan

By Joel Thurtell

Why is House minority Leader Nancy Pelosi choosing this time to blow the ethics whistle on Newt Gingrich?

That’s a no-brainer.

It’s election year, and Newt looks like a potent candidate to challenge President Obama.

So the Nance figures, Why not use her special knowledge about Newt’s old ethics transgressions to tarnish him now that he’s won the South Carolina primary and is a serious candidate?

What does it matter that Newt is no longer in Congress and thus is untouchable by the House Ethics Committee?

What if some of his transgressions went beyond the realm of ethics, stepping into the area of criminal violations?

We might ask ourselves in that case why Nancy held her fire back in the day.

But as long as the congresswoman is waxing eloquent on ethics, what about members of her own Democratic party who got a free ride away from Ethics scrutiny?

Who might I be thinking of?

Why, none other than Detroit’s own U.S. Rep. John “The Con” Conyers.

Actually, it’s his wife, Monica, who is the real con right now, sitting in prison for selling her vote on the Detroit City Council.

Long as Nancy’s blowing smoke Newt’s way, let’s take another look at the behavior of a congressman who got away with it.

Here’s another of my essays about Conyers, first published on October 9, 2010:

By Joel Thurtell

Now the taxpayers of Detroit have to pay $90,000 to say adios to a city worker fired by Monica Conyers because the staffer was about to blab that the Mon was making her do personal chores on the public dime.

Former staffer Yakima Washington said she was getting ready to report Monica Conyers for making her run personal errands as a city employee. That’s when Monica fired her. Washington sued.

It’s an old story with the Conyers duo, turning public servants into private lackeys. At least Yakima Washington got some money out of the deal.

Mostly, those who work for U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit and his wife, Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers, got stuck with working phone banks or changing a diaper.

Demeaning on-the-government-paid-job personal assignments? Par for the course with this duo.

In the case of Congressman Conyers, he assigned federal employees to do everything on government-paid time from babysitting for his two sons as full-time residents of his home or at their own homes, tutoring the Conyers kids in the congressman’s Detroit federal building office, tutoring Monica for her law school classes, chauffeuring the congressman or his kids, and the list goes on and on.

In fall 2003, I even caught a Conyers staffer on the congressman’s payroll while doing campaign work in the Chicago office of presidential aspirant Carol Mosely Braun.

As we wrote in the Detroit Free Press on November 21, 2003, Conyers had federal employees — some of them from the House Judiciary Committee — doing political campaign work on office time, at Conyers’ behest. This didn’t happen once or twice — I made a chart showing how it went on for years, peaking whenever there was an election of interest to Conyers.

None of the staffers dragooned into private service got paid a nickel, let alone ninety grand, to go away.

Instead, on the job with Conyers, they learned to keep their credit cards at home, because when they dined or traveled with Conyers, he had a habit of sticking his workers with the restaurant tab or travel expenses, according to Deanna Maher, his former Downriver office chief of staff.

Maher, now retired, lived for several weeks in the Conyers home on 7 Mile in Detroit, taking care of the two Conyers boys while Monica was away studying law. She cashed her government pay checks all he while.

Sydney Rooks was Conyers’ legal counsel. She also tutored the Conyers kids, too, and helped Monica with her law school studies. That was a waste — Monica has failed the Michigan bar exam four times.

Recalls Maher, “Elise Cathey was hired as congressional staff to take them into her home for the entire summer of 2003 without being reimbursed one dime for their food or clothing.”

Maher wrote to me earlier this week after she read a Detroit Free Press op-ed piece about Monica Conyers’ call for the death penalty for people who murder kids. Monica Conyers said she was “mad as hell” about the murder of a 4-year-old.

It was an amazing statement, Maher told me in an email October 6, 2008: “Today’s DFP editorial re Monica’s latest absolutely blew my mind. Here she is asking for the death penalty of anyone who shoots and kills a child while she herself was brandishing a gun towards her own child, albeit, John III was not an infant and had a butcher knife in his hand and ran out the door to hail down the local police.

Maher said she knew about the police gun and bucher knife incident because she was assigned to keep the story out of the Free Press.

“How dare she even attempt to come across as a decent mother who cares about children when she let her two young boys be placed with anyone her husband could order from his congressional office staff to take care of them. It did not matter to her what their backgrounds were or if her children were safe and nurtured as long as their care did not interfere with her agenda. Her notorious abuse of Congressman Conyers’ staff (not just me) was bad enough. The abuse of her children when dumping them with anyone is by far more egregious.

“While on staff, I stepped in many times to attend to her children’s needs, because simply I felt sorry for them and could not stand by and watch. I remember attending to a severe diaper rash of the youngest child because others could not or did not want to change his diaper. More than once, I personally gave them a place to sleep when neither parent was available.”

Maher called me today (October 8, 2008) to ask if I’d received any feedback from my column, “Pistol packin’ Monica,” about the 2001 cop shop report.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve had plenty of comments on stories I wrote about billionaire Matty Moroun’s takeover of a public park in Detroit. I’ve had comments about my financial column, “How to stop a bank run.”

But there were no responses to “Pistol packin’ Monica.”

Not one.

“Aren’t people outraged?” Maher asked.

“That,” said Maher, “Is outrageous.”

Outraged? Drop me a line at joelthurtell(at)gmail.com

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