Conyers' 2006 Staffers: Felt like 'House Servants', Baby Sat His Kids Six Weeks at a Time

Posted: Nov 25, 2017 1:55 PM
Conyers' 2006 Staffers: Felt like 'House Servants', Baby Sat His Kids Six Weeks at a Time

Yesterday, Cortney covered new comments from John Conyers' (D-MI) former lawyer, Melanie Sloan, regarding his alleged sexual misconduct. But a 2006 CNN interview with Sloan and two other former staffers shows that he regularly established a pattern of inappropriateness, borderline negligence, and a hostile environment for his staffers and subordinates. 

As reported yesterday, Conyers on at least one occasion placed Sloan in an uncomfortable and lewd situation.

“While she says she was not sexually harassed, she describes to the Detroit Free Press being verbally harassed and made uncomfortable on a number of occasions. She detailed Conyers bizarre behavior at one meeting in particular.

But she said that on one occasion, she was called to Conyers’ office in the Rayburn House Office building for a meeting and, when she got there, he was in his underwear.

“He was just walking around in his office, not dressed,” she said. “He wasn’t doing it to hit on me. It was more like he could do what he wanted. I was quite shocked by it and left quickly.”

Although Sloan recalls being "increasingly anxious and depressed" about going to work, like many victims of sexual assault on Capitol Hill, she was reluctant to report cases of sexual harassment for fear of being alienated (Sloan says she was once told she was "mentally unstable" for making such allegations against Conyers), or because the process of reporting to the Office of Compliance was too cumbersome.” (Emphasis added)

These comments reconfirm statements that Sloan made from a 2006 CNN interview alleging Conyers' inappropriate behavior with staffers. 

In 2006, two additional staffers told CNN that Rep. Conyers would regularly have them babysit and stay with his kids, often for weeks at a time.

In the interview transcribed below, Conyers' former legal advisor Sydney Rooks says the Michigan congressman would regularly ditch his kids, leaving her responsible. He would often going away for hours at a time. The lawyer-turned-babysitter would have no idea where their father was. 

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sydney Rooks says she had no idea , when she signed up as legal counsel for her boss, she would also be baby-sitting her boss' children, a lawyer required to baby-sit.  

SYDNEY ROOKS, FORMER LEGAL ADVISER TO CONGRESSMAN JOHN CONYERS: Several times, he just brought them into my office and said: "Rooks, they're your responsibility for right now. I will be back later."

GRIFFIN (on camera): And how long was later?  

ROOKS: Later could be a few minutes. Later could be hours. Later could be frantically calling around, trying to find him, because it was now 8:00 or 9:00, or later in the evening, and not knowing what to do with the children.  (Emphasis added)

Deanna Maher, his former Deputy Chief of Staff, confirmed she often was left with the children for weeks at a time. She was even forced to stay in his Detroit home. 

GRIFFIN (voice-over): For Deanna Maher, later turned out to be weeks. She says she was actually told to move into her boss' house, this house in Detroit, and be the live-in nanny while he was gone and his wife was away at school.  

DEANNA MAHER, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR CONGRESSMAN JOHN CONYERS: He handed me the keys to his car and his house and said, "Take care of my child, Carl (ph), and everything" -- make sure, in other words, I had to stay at the house and take care of him. And that was for several weeks.  

GRIFFIN: She says he left her, never telling her when he would be back, certainly, not that the baby-sitting gig would last six weeks. (Emphasis added)

According to Rooks, this wasn't a one time thing either. 

ROOKS: No. It was -- it was common. It was ubiquitous. And it wasn't just me. OK? I was the tutor, primarily, but I wasn't the only person who got stuck with the kids for the day. I wasn't the only person who had to take the boys to the bathroom, change a diaper, or anything like that. 

We would also take them to doctors' appointments, other things, too. If they had to go, they had to go. Somebody had to take them. And there was no reimbursement for gasoline or anything like that.  

Worse yet, her boss made her feel like a servant. 

GRIFFIN: Did you feel like a servant, like a house servant?  

ROOKS: Many times, I frankly did, yes.  (Emphasis added)

As for Sloan, in 2006 she lamented the fact that a House Ethics Committee investigation would not accomplish much of anything due to a quasi-gentleman's agreement. 

"Melanie Sloan, who once worked for Congressman John Conyers on his Capitol Hill staff, thinks she knows why. She now heads the liberal watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that mostly criticizes Republicans, but in the case of ethics, she says, neither conservatives nor liberals on Capitol Hill are held accountable. 

MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY: That's right. That's because there is an ethics truce. Both parties will deny this, by the way, but there is, in fact, a truce that's been in existence since 1998. And under the terms of that truce, nobody will file a complaint against a member of the other party.  

GRIFFIN: The truce, among Democrats and Republicans, Sloan says, is a gentleman's agreement. I won't report you, if you don't report me. Still, according to Sydney Rooks, who was John Conyers' legal adviser after all, the rules as written are very clear, a congressman can't treat his staff as personal servants nor should taxpayers be paying for a congressman's chauffeurs, personal babysitters and errand runners."  (Emphasis added)

As Leah reported, Conyers's questionable practices are resurfacing after BuzzFeed News reported his four separate sexual harassment settlements. 

"Michigan Rep. John Conyers reportedly settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former staffer who accused the Democrat of firing her because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Four former staffers signed affidavits alleging that the longest serving House member made repeated sexual advances to his female staffers as well as having members of his staff contact and transport women they believe he was having affairs with. Two of the women stated in their affidavits that they thought he was using office funds to pay for their travel to and from his apartment and hotel rooms. 

Among the other inappropriate sexual behavior named was caressing, touching, and asking for sexual favors. 

The woman who settled with the congressman went through a lengthy process in dealing with Conyers’ unwanted sexual advances."