Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey to be indicted on alleged bribery, his lawyer says

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — City Councilman André L. Spivey is expected to be indicted for bribery on claims he accepted $1,000 from an undercover informant, his attorney said.

Detroit-based attorney Elliott Hall told The Detroit News Tuesday that he anticipates a one-count indictment from the U.S. Attorney's Office for bribery as a public official, but added "Mr. Spivey did nothing in his official capacity as a city councilperson that they're claiming."

Councilman Andre Spivey is not seeking reelection in 2021.

Hall said the indictment will detail the bribery allegations involving Spivey, whom he said has been cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other authorities for the past 15 months "trying to resolve it."

A date hasn't been settled but a virtual arraignment is expected next week, Hall said. 

Hall said Tuesday that Spivey has not resigned his seat on the council. Although federal authorities "might require him to," the councilman's lawyer said, "we're trying to keep him in to finish his term."

The accusations of public corruption involving an elected Detroit official are the latest in a string of cases that date back decades. Just this spring, indicted City Councilman Gabe Leland resigned after he pleaded guilty to a charge of misconduct in office.

As news of the bribery claims unfolded, Spivey was absent from Detroit City Council's weekly virtual formal session. Hall said the councilman is out of town for his daughter's baseball tournament. Spivey and his office staff could not be reached for comment. 

Officials with the FBI office in Detroit declined to comment Tuesday and deferred to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is responsible for filing charges. U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Gina Balaya couldn't be reached.

As of Tuesday evening, no charges had been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, court spokesman David Ashenfelter said. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the bribery allegations represent a "sad day for Detroit," Spivey and Spivey's family. 

"We do have a process in this country where people are presumed innocent until proven guilty," Duggan said in a statement. "Councilman Spivey is entitled to that presumption until he has his day in court."

Earlier this year, Duggan said Leland's case had been a "negative cloud" over the city and that Leland's plea and resignation were allowing Detroit to move forward. 

Leland was sentenced last month to two and a half years probation on the state charge. The 38-year-old Democrat was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a Detroit businessman in exchange for his vote on a controversial land deal.

The state case came after Leland was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2018 on bribery conspiracy and two counts of bribery stemming from the allegations. The federal case against Leland was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

Leland was the highest-ranking Detroit politician to be charged with a federal crime since former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted a decade ago and subsequently sentenced to 28 years in federal prison. Kilpatrick was released in January after former President Donald Trump commuted his sentence. He served seven years.

John Sellek, CEO of Harbor Strategies, a Lansing-based public relations firm, said while it can be reassuring to see justice play out, it's frustrating some public office holders haven't gotten the message that they're being watched closer than ever. 

Sellek said it "has a big impact that stretches all the way from the people's trust in local government, all the way up to the governor's race, because the governor is working to restart Michigan's economy after a pandemic and it gets harder to recruit business investment in Michigan when these headlines seem to be on repeat." 

Spivey was among a handful of incumbent council members who announced earlier this year that they would not be seeking another four-year term in this year's election. President Brenda Jones and member Raquel Castañeda-López also aren't seeking reelection in the Aug. 3 primary. 

Spivey, a Detroit native and Cass Technical High School graduate, was first elected citywide in November 2009. He was subsequently reelected to serve the east side district in 2013 and 2017. 

He's co-chair for both the Budget Finance and Audit Committee and the Neighborhood Services Committee and represents the council on the Detroit Zoological Society Board of Directors. As an ordained itinerant minister, Spivey has served as pastor of several African Methodist Episcopal Churches and is executive minister at the Oak Grove A.M.E Church on Cherrylawn Avenue in Detroit.

In July 2020, Spivey sponsored a resolution to bring back affirmative action in Michigan by amending the state's constitution. The council unanimously passed it, saying it was long overdue. Spivey also voted in favor of a controversial $250 million blight bond proposal that month and rejected the use of facial recognition in police work.

None of the council members could be reached for comment Tuesday. 

Prior to his time on the council, Spivey was appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm to serve on the Detroit School Board Transition Team. Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano also appointed him to serve on the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Wayne County Economic Development Corporation.

The Detroit council has long been mired in public corruption cases.

At the time of her death in 2004, former Councilwoman Kay Everett faced an indictment for taking a cash bribe from a city contractor.

In 2006, former Detroit councilman Alonzo "Lonnie" Bates was convicted of theft and bank fraud for placing "ghost employees" on his payroll. Bates was sentenced to 33 months in prison for taking $800,000 in bribes while he was a member of the Detroit School Board.

Former Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers was convicted of taking bribes while in office. 

Conyers pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2010 and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for accepting money in exchange for her vote on a $1 billion sludge-hauling deal. At the time of her death in 2004, Everett was under indictment for taking a bribe from a city contractor, who flavored the deal with 17 pounds of sausage.

Former council President Charles Pugh resigned in 2013, months after leaving City Hall amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges and was sentenced to 5 1/2 to 15 years in prison.

The Aug. 3 primary race for Detroit's District 4 includes former Detroit Free Press journalist M.L. Elrick and retired judge Virgil C. Smith as well as high school dean Toson Knight, retired social worker Ane Bomani, former Wayne County sheriff deputy Kenneth Snapp, veteran Daivon Reeder, and community advocate Latisha Johnson.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_