Detroit mayoral candidate Coleman A. Young II is demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into problems with Mayor Mike Duggan’s demolition program.
The Detroit News first reported that a federal grand jury is focused on Duggan’s demolition program and whether federal money was misappropriated while Detroit spent almost $200 million to demolish homes after the city’s bankruptcy. The target of the investigation is unclear.
But Young, a state senator representing Detroit, said at a Monday news conference that the situation demands a special prosecutor because Duggan is a former Wayne County prosecutor who has a special relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit. This relationship corrupts the federal probe, he said.
“After all that our beloved Detroit has been through, we don’t need this,” Young said. “We need honesty and transparency. We need a thorough and honest investigation.”
Young also suggested that funds used for the demolition program could have been better spent.
“Imagine what $250 million dollars would have meant for our neighborhoods if it had been administered properly and honestly,” Young said.
Alexis Wiley, chief of staff for Duggan, on Monday dismissed Young’s notion that a special prosecutor was needed, calling it an “absurd suggestion.”
“No one of any credibility is actually suggesting that,” Wiley said. “This is yet another example of Coleman Young bashing the mayor instead of actually presenting a plan for the city of Detroit.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan currently is led by an interim attorney after the Trump administration forced the resignation of Obama appointee Barbara McQuade.
As many as 30 contractors and city agencies are believed to have been subpoenaed to testify or provide documents, according to sources familiar with the investigation and a copy of subpoenas obtained by The News.
Peter Henning, Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor, said there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the mayor and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.
Duggan’s former position as a county prosecutor “doesn’t mean that years later there would be a conflict of interest,” Henning said.
However, if there was a relationship, the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice would likely step in as opposed to hiring a special prosecutor, Henning said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Detroit’s demolition program already was under investigation by the FBI and Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or SIGTARP, after it came under scrutiny over bidding and soaring costs in 2015.
Young said the practices of the Duggan administration amount to bid-rigging, wire fraud and collusion.
The specter of criminal charges and another public corruption scandal at Detroit City Hall, less than four years after former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced in a racketeering and bribery scheme, has clouded Duggan’s first term in office and re-election bid this fall.
Despite Duggan’s announcement last week that his office hasn’t been questioned or subpoenaed, Young said he believes the mayor is at the center of the investigation.
“We have all seen these investigations before,” Young said. “The target is never the target in the beginning.”