DETROIT -- Federal prosecutors are stepping up pressure on those involved in the Synagro sludge scandal to come forward and cut a deal or face indictment and harsh treatment, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit said Tuesday.
That's why prosecutors released documents Monday containing extensive details about the actions of former Synagro official James R. Rosendall Jr. and intermediaries he dealt with when Rosendall pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge on Monday, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor.
"Come now or we're coming after you," is the message, Henning said. "This is your time to make a deal."
Henning said the details released Monday show prosecutors "have a very strong case against the intermediaries" as they move closer to targeted public officials.
Documents filed in the Rosendall case show former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his father, business consultant Bernard N. Kilpatrick, are among those under investigation in connection with a contract that pays Synagro about $47 million a year to haul and treat the city's sewage sludge.
Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers also is under investigation in connection with the sludge contract, people familiar with the investigation said.
Appearances before a federal grand jury in Detroit that has been investigating City Hall corruption are scheduled well into February, people familiar with the investigation said.
The long-running and wide-ranging investigation involves the Synagro deal and contracts at Cobo Center and other city departments.
It's likely indictments are still weeks away, Henning said.
The Detroit City Council approved the contract by a 5-4 vote in the fall of 2007.
Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. and the City Council took steps Tuesday to rescind the controversial contract, which Councilman Kwame Kenyatta described as "tainted" and Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said "never should have happened."
The pair co-sponsored a resolution, which passed 7-1, asking the Mayor's Office and the Law Department to find a way to revoke the contract without leaving the city open to legal action.
Synagro fired Rosendall late Monday, soon after his guilty plea, spokeswoman Darci McConnell of McConnell Communications said Tuesday. He had been suspended without pay since news of the bribery scandal broke in June.
McConnell declined comment on the city's latest move to rescind the sludge contract.
Watson first tried to rescind the contract in July. She did not have the votes then, but easily won over her colleagues Tuesday.
"It never should have been approved," Watson said of the contract. "It is just another layer of bad news. We need to have transparency" in government.
Mayoral spokesman Daniel Cherrin said Cockrel "is in support of rescinding the contract if he can do so legally."
John Riehl, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 207, applauded Tuesday's move and said the contract can be legally revoked because it involved bribes.
"This contract is untenable," Riehl said. "They can't perpetuate this fraud forever."
Conyers, who is linked to the corruption probe but maintains she did nothing wrong, said the council doesn't have the authority to rescind the deal on its own, and the Mayor's Office would have to do so. She declined comment after the meeting.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Lewis Smith asked council members to meet in closed session as soon as possible to discuss the next step.
But Watson said the Law Department could have given advice in July when Watson first tried to rescind the contract. She said it was too late to begin trying to offer suggestions.
Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel questioned the legality of revoking the contract, which she has described as a good deal for the city, and voted against the move.
Payments to Conyers alleged
Federal officials have electronic surveillance evidence that allegedly links Conyers to receiving a payment or payments in connection with the Synagro deal, people familiar with the investigation said.
Conyers has denied any wrongdoing, and her Detroit attorney, Steve Fishman, has said such allegations should be viewed with skepticism. Fishman declined comment Tuesday.
Conyers, at the time the council president pro tem, opposed the Synagro deal but ultimately voted in favor of it.
Sam Riddle, a former aide to Conyers, has said his telephone was tapped by the FBI in connection with the investigation.
Riddle has also admitted to business dealings with Rayford W. Jackson, a Detroit businessman who was Synagro's local partner in the sludge deal. Jackson is also under FBI investigation and also had his telephone tapped as part of the investigation, sources said. Riddle has not returned phone calls in recent days.
Rosendall's actions detailed
Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Monday in connection with Rosendall's guilty plea say Rosendall made payments to "City Council Member A" in the fall of 2007 in exchange for that council member's Nov. 20, 2007, vote in favor of the Synagro contract.
In 2007, Rosendall was advised that an aide to Council Member A requested money in exchange for the council member's yes vote on the Synagro contract, Rosendall's plea agreement says.
When Council Member A voted yes, "despite ... earlier misgivings," Rosendall said he would direct Synagro to wire $25,000 to an intermediary "for use as campaign contributions and other forms of support to ensure that Council Member A and other supporters of the Synagro contract did not change their positions."
Rosendall also was involved as a landowner in an earlier agreement the City Council approved to allow Systematic Recycling LLC to operate in southwest Detroit.
According to Rosendall's plea agreement, the aide to City Council Member A told Rosendall that only if Rosendall hired the aide as a consultant would the agreement be approved.
When Council Member A learned that an intermediary working with Rosendall had not made a payment or donation to benefit the council member, the council member said, "You don't have my vote and you're short," and cursed at Rosendall and the intermediary after a council meeting, the plea agreement said.
On March 28, 2007, the council member voted in favor of the Systematic Recycling deal. The intermediary advised Rosendall that he later paid the council member $5,000 to $8,000 in cash, the Rosendall plea agreement says.
Henning said he does not believe the prospect of a Democratic president soon appointing a new U.S. attorney in Detroit is affecting the timing of prosecutors' actions in Detroit.
No U.S. attorney would attempt to interfere with a public corruption investigation, he said. Such investigations have to be preapproved by U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., he said.