Detroit City Council lost another elected member Tuesday because of a federal bribery charge. And federal officials say the broad corruption probe that includes some City Council members and the Detroit Police Department continues.
Councilmember André L. Spivey pled guilty Tuesday afternoon in federal court to accepting bribes on eight separate occasions between February 2018 and February 2020. He admitted to conspiring with a member of his staff to commit bribery by accepting more than $35,900 in bribe payments in connection with City Council’s towing oversight.
Spivey, 47, was charged July 28 with one count of felony conspiracy to commit bribery. He was accused of taking a $1,000 cash bribe from an undercover law enforcement agent in October 2018, according to court records.
“I received payments in hopes of helping an individual retain a city contract,” Spivey told U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts.
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An Oct. 26, 2018 bribe happened at the Side Street Diner in Grosse Pointe, Spivey admitted in court. Another exchange occurred on Nov. 25 in 2019 at the Dearborn Meat Market. On Jan. 22, 2020, a $10,000 bribe was accepted by an unnamed member of Spivey’s staff to support the council member’s birthday party and fund-raising event.
He also introduced the unidentified towing contractor, who was also an FBI informant, to other members of the Detroit City Council. Spivey didn’t name the other council members.
On Aug. 25, Councilmembers Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson had their homes and offices raided by the FBI, as were the homes of their chiefs of staff, Ricardo Silva and Carol Banks, respectively. None of them have been charged.
Operation Northern Hook
Federal officials said this is the first case in the government’s investigation known as “Operation Northern Hook.” It’s an investigation into corruption within the government and the Detroit Police Department relating to the towing industry and other incidents.
“The people of Detroit deserve a city government free of corruption and pay-to-play politics,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin in a written statement.
Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Detroit said Spivey’s guilty plea “should serve as a warning to others who think they are beyond the reach of the law.
Spivey, who is also executive minister at Oak Grove A.M.E. Church, represents District 4 on the city’s far east side. The district has nearly 100,000 residents and borders Harper Woods and the Grosse Pointes.
He was first elected to council in November 2009. He will be forced to give up his council seat due to the City Charter and state law. As of Tuesday afternoon, Spivey, who is not seeking re-election in November, had not resigned.
In May, Councilmember Gabe Leland resigned and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of probation for misconduct in office. Leland was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a payoff while at a strip club. Prosecutors said the District 7 councilmember accepted $7,500 in cash during his 2017 re-election campaign and free car repairs in exchange for his vote on a land deal. During the plea hearing, Leland admitted that he accepted the campaign contribution and knew it was illegal to do so.
Ayers and Benson
Ayers, a citywide at-large member, was the top vote-getter in a crowded council primary in August. Benson, who represents District 3 on the northeast side, had a guaranteed path to another four years on council because he faced no challengers on the ballot. Two write-in challengers, Steven Shelton and Adam Mundy, will attempt to defeat him in November.
Between Leland’s resignation and the decisions of Spivey, at-large member Brenda Jones and Raquel Castañeda-López of District 6 not to seek re-election, the Detroit City Council will see the most turnover since 2014.
Spivey will be sentenced by Judge Victoria Roberts on Jan. 19. Federal sentencing guidelines call for 37-46 months in federal prison.
This story was updated at 6:07 pm.