Janeé Ayers is 'hopeful' truth will prevail in Detroit corruption probe

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — At-large Detroit councilwoman Janeé Ayers on Friday broke her silence nearly two months after FBI raids at her home and city offices in connection with a corruption investigation, saying she's "hopeful that the truth will eventually prevail."

The councilwoman issued a statement to The Detroit News Friday following her first public event with constituents since late August and just days ahead of the city's general election in which she is seeking another four-year term. 

Ayers was greeted Friday by four police officers and two constituents from the Cadillac Community for the "coffee and conversation" meeting on the city's northwest side. 

Ayers, during the event, would not address questions about the ongoing federal corruption probe, coined "Operation Northern Hook," confirming only that she has legal representation. She alsowould not disclose the name of her attorney.

Detroit City councilwoman Janee Ayers hosts a coffee and conversation event with less than a handful of people on a rainy morning in Detroit, Michigan on October 29, 2021.

“Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the investigation," Ayers said in the statement to The News. "I am confident and hopeful that the truth will eventually prevail but in the meantime, I am continuing doing my job every day.”

During Friday's coffee event at the PVG Compound, formally Gospel of Christ Ministries on Marlowe Street, attendees Paulette Watson and Denise Lomax raised concerns to Ayers about zoning in industrial areas, cleaning up neighborhood eyesores, medical marijuana buildings being too close to schools and blight ticketing. 

The residents told The News Friday they were unaware of the FBI raids at Ayers' home, the houses of Councilman Scott Benson, their chiefs of staff — Ricardo Silva and Carol Banks — and City Hall offices. The corruption investigation, tied to municipal towing and bribery, yielded indictments this week for two Detroit police officers after first entangling longtime Councilman André Spivey, who pleaded guilty last month to bribery. Spivey resigned the following day. 

Ayers, Benson and their staffers have not been charged with any wrongdoing. 

Spivey was the second Detroit council member to step down this year after pleading guilty to a crime. Gabe Leland resigned in the spring after pleading guilty to a charge of misconduct in office for accepting a cash contribution toward his 2017 reelection campaign. 

Ayers' remarks about the ongoing federal probe come after Benson last month told The News he doesnt "engage in criminality" or take his constituents for granted. Benson is seeking another term representing the City Council's District 3.

Ayers will face off Tuesday against former state Sen. Coleman A. Young II, the son of Detroit's first African American mayor, formercharter commissioner Nicole Small, and Mary Waters, a former state representative, in the race for two at-large seats.

Ayers told Watson and Lomax that she is working on expanding the "Ban the Box" ordinance, which was enacted in 2010 limiting questions about criminal convictions on job applications until after job candidates are determined qualified for hire.

Ayers' office is hosting a public hearing on expanding the program for returning citizens on Nov. 15, she said. 

Denise Lomax of Detroit talks with Detroit City Councilwoman Janee Ayers during a coffee and conversation event with less than a handful of people on a rainy morning in Detroit, Michigan on October 29, 2021.

Lomax, born and raised in the neighborhood, flagged Ayers and police about excessive dumping and urged them to increase security.

"We have lots of problems at Washburn and Plymouth. We have tried to keep it under control by cutting the grass and picking up papers, trash," said Lomax, 63. "At Jeffery and Chicago, there are lots of shootings and seniors are scared to come out of the house. We need something nice for seniors who don't smile anymore."

Detroit police officers touted the Improve Detroit mobile app but mentioned to Ayers, who serves as vice-chair of the council's Public Health and Safety subcommittee, they'd like to see blight ticketing for parked cars on grass.

Ayers said the app could be enhanced and more promoted because "there are not enough complaints," she said.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_