Detroit -- A paralegal at the U.S. Attorney's Office is suspended after officials suspected she leaked confidential information to Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle while he was under criminal investigation, people familiar with the investigation said Monday.
Wendolyn Greene, formerly Wendolyn Johnson, answered "no" Monday when asked if she still worked for the federal prosecutor's office in Detroit, where she was a paralegal in the special prosecutions unit. She then hung up her home phone.
"We had an employee by that name; I don't know her status," U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Gina Balaya said Monday when asked about Greene. Balaya later called back to clarify, saying Greene "is still an employee of this office." Beyond that, "we can't discuss her status at all," she said.
People familiar with the investigation said the controversy arose about a year ago, close to the time that news of the Synagro Technologies Inc. bribery scandal became public. Riddle had dated Greene and federal officials suspected he got information from her relevant to an ongoing federal investigation, sources said.
One source said officials suspected Greene told Riddle about a search of someone's home conducted in connection with the Detroit City Hall investigation. Search warrant affidavits are normally sealed. An investigation related to Greene is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Grand Rapids because it was seen as a conflict of interest for Greene to be investigated by the office in which she worked, sources said.
"Did Sam Riddle know Wendy Johnson? Yes, he was friends with Wendy Johnson," said David Steingold, Riddle's Detroit attorney. "As to anything else, I'm not able to comment. I do not know the state of the investigation, or even if she is a target of the investigation."
Gerald K. Evelyn, a Detroit criminal attorney representing Greene, did not respond to a call or an e-mail Monday.
Riddle is a former top aide to Detroit City Council President Pro-Tem Monica Conyers, who on Friday pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy and announced her resignation Monday.
Conyers admitted she took about $6,000 in cash for voting in favor of a $1.2 billion sewage sludge hauling and treatment contract awarded to Synagro in the fall of 2007. Conyers switched to supporting the contract, allowing it to pass 5-4.
Riddle, who has said his telephone was tapped in connection with the Synagro investigation, could not be reached for comment Monday. He is under investigation as a possible conduit for payments to Conyers and has denied accusations he shook down strip club owners who needed a City Hall license transfer.
The Synagro investigation is part of a wide-ranging and long-running investigation of City Hall corruption, including bribes paid in connection with contracts at the Cobo Center and payments made to business consultant Bernard N. Kilpatrick, the father of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
In another development Monday, Detroit businessman Jim Papas expressed outrage after Riddle alleged he received a $20,000 contract from Papas related to a controversial deep injection well near Romulus.
Riddle told The Detroit News in a recent interview that Conyers referred Papas to him and Riddle gave her half of the $20,000 he received. Later, Conyers' husband, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, signed a supportive letter for Papas' injection well company, Environmental Geo-Technologies, even though his staff had spoken against such wells at public hearings, when another company was backing a similar plan.
"Mr. Papas was completely unaware of any financial impropriety on the part of Mr. Riddle and Ms. Conyers," Papas said in a statement issued by his spokesman, Walter Kraft.
"He was contacted by federal authorities more than a year ago regarding Conyers and Riddle and fully cooperated. ... At the time he was informed that he is not a target of any investigation."
Interim U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg said Friday that Rep. Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, is not under investigation and prosecutors have no evidence linking him to any crimes allegedly committed by his wife.
Rep. Conyers could not be reached for comment Monday.
But a state legislator who is an outspoken critic of the injection wells said Monday that it's time for Conyers to explain why and how his signature ended up on the letter to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007.
"If it was done without his knowledge, he should state as such," Rep. Doug Geiss, D-Taylor.
If the allegations are true, Geiss said, Papas' company should not be allowed to operate the wells, which have been funded by more than $35 million from the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System.
Permits for the wells have been temporarily revoked, but a final decision is pending.