July 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Controversy follows flamboyant Riddle

He has represented 'worst boss,' people charged with bribery

Mary Waters, challenger for Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick's congressional seat, talks to the media with her political consultant, Sam Riddle, in Detroit on election night in August 2008. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)

Detroit --The federal indictment Wednesday of Sam Riddle, the charismatic and often bombastic political consultant, caps a career often punctuated by controversy.

In two decades, Riddle, now 62, has gone from representing a woman dubbed the worst boss in the nation to another considered the worst mother, after her first-grader son took a gun into school and killed a classmate. In between, he has represented two elected officials who were charged with bribery -- former Councilwoman Monica Conyers and deceased Councilwoman Kay Everett -- and one who was under investigation when she died.

"He's known as someone who is flamboyant and outspoken," said Denver City Councilman Doug Linkart, who was a state senator when a probe was launched by state lawmakers into a no-bid contract awarded to Riddle by a former Colorado secretary of state.

When Riddle arrived in Colorado in the late 1990s, he wanted to be that state's version of Al Sharpton, recalled Michael Feeney, a Denver lawyer and former state Senate minority leader.

"The problem is we already had a few people to play that role," said Feeney.

Here is a look at some of Riddle's relationships:

  • In 1998, Riddle was hired by Vikki Buckley, a Republican, who was running for re-election as secretary of state in Colorado. After Buckley won, she gave Riddle a $250 an hour, no-bid professional services contract to set up satellite offices, monitor Y2K computer compliance and review corporations. Eventually, he was paid $67,765.

    Buckley died of a heart attack as lawmakers launched a probe.

  • In 1997, Riddle donated his time to help Suzanne Sigona, the then-head of the Denver County Probation Department, after she had been named "World's Worst Boss" by the National Enquirer. Her employees claimed she was so difficult to work for they became physically ill. Despite Riddle's help, Sigona was fired but ultimately was awarded more than $100,000 in damages by Denver County after she accused them of job discrimination.

  • In February 2000, Riddle was working for free to represent Tamarla Owens, whose first-grade son took a handgun into a Flint elementary school and killed 6-year-old Kayla Rolland. Later Michael Moore, one of Riddle's longtime friends, included Owens in the movie "Bowling for Columbine."

  • Everett hired Riddle as a consultant in 2003-04. While Riddle was working for her, Everett was indicted on 27 counts of extortion and bribery related to allegations she demanded money and perks from a city contractor in exchange for her vote.

  • Riddle worked in the early 1990s as a spokesman for Monica Conyers' husband, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, and was campaign manager for attorney Geoffrey Fieger's 1998 gubernatorial run.

  • Conyers hired Riddle in 2005 for her run for the council and paid him $20,000. He worked for her over the next few years. Last month, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribery, resigned and called Riddle a liar.