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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2008

Detroit recycling contract probed


DETROIT - Federal authorities are focusing on four members of the City Council in an investigation of a $47 million sludge recycling contract, a newspaper reported yesterday.

The probe also includes council staff members, city employees, and others outside city government, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The unnamed sources told the newspaper that several people are seen or heard on FBI surveillance audio and video accepting money from James Rosendall, an executive with Houston-based Synagro Technologies.

Mr. Rosendall of Grand Rapids has been suspended by the waste management company.

His lawyers said the waste hauling contract will save Detroit millions of dollars in sludge disposal costs.

The statement included the following from Mr. Rosendall: "As far as the federal investigation goes, I made a mistake; I did business with the City of Detroit. I am fully cooperating with the FBI."

Synagro also has suspended the contract of Detroit developer Rayford Jackson, who worked on the deal with Mr. Rosendall.

The contract was approved in November by a 5-4 council vote.

A message seeking comment from Synagro Executive Vice President Alvin Thomas II was left yesterday.

U.S. attorney's office spokesman Gina Balaya said she could not comment.

FBI special agent Sandra Berchtold also said she could not comment on any investigation.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said news of the probe "was extremely disconcerting and disappointing," especially in light of the criminal charges Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces in a text-messaging scandal and an FBI investigation into management of the Detroit Public Schools' Risk Management Office.

Council members said they first heard rumblings of an FBI investigation last week.

Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr., has said he met June 25 with the FBI.

John Clark, his chief of staff, resigned that day. Mr. Clark had been caught on FBI video accepting money, the Free Press and The Detroit News reported.

Councilman Sheila Cockrel said she voluntarily met this week with the FBI.

Both she and Ken Cockrel, Jr., have said they are not targets of the probe.

Mr. Cockrel has said the council would continue its efforts to force Mr. Kilpatrick from office.

The council is seeking to hold forfeiture-of-office proceedings against Mr. Kilpatrick. It accuses the mayor of violating city charter provisions by not revealing a confidentiality agreement linked to an $8.4 million whistle-blowers' settlement.

The council has asked the governor to remove Mr. Kilpatrick for misconduct.

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