Just three months into their new terms, some Detroit City Council members are already under a federal investigation.
The FBI probe was triggered by a conversation in an Eastern Market bar between Detroit Police Chief James Craig, the Rev. Horace Sheffield and political consultant Adolph Mongo. The topic of discussion – rumors that someone tried to pay off council members to influence the election for president.
The Jan. 6 council vote for president shocked many observers after four newly elected members – Mary Sheffield, Gabe Leland, Scott Benson and George Cushingberry Jr. – chose Brenda Jones as president. The 5-4 vote edged out former Council President Saunteel Jenkins.
Just days after the conversation at Cutter’s Bar and Grill in Eastern Market, FBI agents visited the home of Rev. Sheffield, whose daughter is Councilwoman Sheffield and who is a candidate for the seat of U.S. Rep. John Conyers.
“I was having a casual conversation with two people who brought up some of the various maneuvering that was going on for the office of council president, such as ‘who is going to be vice chairperson? What committees people are going to have?’ And one of the parties said that they had heard that people were offering to pay off campaign debt” in exchange for their vote, Sheffield told the Free Press.
Council members said they were unaware of an investigation and were never approached about payoffs.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.