Detroit home demolitions stalled in dispute between Duggan, City Council
Detroit – The city’s first wave of more than 1,300 demolished residential buildings, expected to begin this spring, has sparked transparency concerns and a dispute between Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration and senior Detroit city councilor.
Council President Brenda Jones in a social media post blamed the city’s procurement bureau, accusing the city procurement bureau of paving an “attack on transparency” by failing to provide numbers on the hiring and recruiting of Detroit residents for some demolition contracts after the council announced a vote on the contracts over recruitment concerns.
The city’s new demolition division is seeking city council approval to commission seven Detroit-based companies – five of which are black-owned – to carry out 1,380 demolitions under the $ 250 million Blight Bond initiative, Proposal N, were paid. The companies selected 180 competitive bids for $ 30 million in residential real estate contracts for which the plan is targeted.
The delay in agreeing the contract, Jones said, led to an initially confidential legal opinion from the city’s legal department, according to which, under the city’s public procurement ordinance, council members are not authorized to increase or extend contract requirements after offers have been made.
This is “risky” and could open the Procurement Bureau to lawsuits the report said the Legal Department could not count on to defend.
The council unanimously voted on Tuesday to forego the privilege and make the report public.
Until or unless the Procurement Ordinance is changed, Detroit Corporation attorney Lawrence Garcia wrote in the law that neither the Procurement Bureau nor interested bidders “have an obligation to act on councilor policy.”
As a result of the debate, 23 demolition contracts, each with around 60 properties and valued at around US $ 30 million, were examined for three weeks by a council’s public health and safety committee. The subcommittee voted on Monday to include it with a recommendation on the city council’s official agenda next Tuesdayfor full adviceto approve them.
Garcia denied Jones’ allegations in an interview with The News on Tuesday, insisting that the city’s contract department responded “as always” to all requests from the council.
He reiterated his efforts to impose additional conditions after bids have been placed and this is not allowed.
“There is a big difference between asking for information to allow council members to vote on the proposed contract and putting new terms on the contract process after the offer is won,” said Garcia. “The (Contract and Procurement Office) cannot impose any new conditions on the bidders once the procurement process has been successfully completed – not even if the Council requests it to do so. This is not permitted under the rules.”
Council members’ requests included asking the procurement office to post a destination business and employment link on their website, a Detroit hiring plan for all contractors who are not 51% or more Detroit based, and details of the Procurement Bureau Plans Educate Detroit businesses about tendering opportunities and recruit them for any services that are provided to non-Detroit-based businesses.
Jones said during the committee meeting Monday that what she received from the administration was “not a detailed report” of how many Detroiters are employed or ready to be hired.
Alderman Scott Benson, chairman of the council’s public health and safety committee, said the contracts were advanced but council members could ask for more questions and answers before the February 23 vote.
The administration, he said, likely wanted the contract package to be approved “as soon as it was presented,” but “the council is the authorizing authority and this is part of our due diligence.”
“Before approving approximately $ 30 million worth of contracts, you want to make sure that you do your due diligence,” said Benson, who refused to weigh Garcia’s opinion.
In a statement, Jones called on councilors to review the “maneuvers to weaken the investigative powers of Detroit City Council”.
The council’s legislative power “is considerable,” wrote Garcia, “but it is limited by the Charter.”
“Winning bidders are likely to have strong legal claims against the city if retroactive claims and conditions are imposed,” the statement said. “In addition Such legislative tactics are risky to be unauthorized. Vendors currently interested in bidding on city contracts may lose interest if subsequent conditions and considerations are imposed that are not included in the law. “
Jones said in a February 8 memo to Mayors Mike Duggan and Garcia that procurement officials recently provided councilors with certain recruitment numbers. However, she claims that additional requests for information have not been answered since the legal opinion was given.
Jones said she will vote no on city contracts that don’t prioritize Detroiters.
Jones has long been a vocal critic of the city’s contract processes and has raised concerns about minority contractors being left out. It also declined to sign city-funded demolition contracts while the federal government investigated the demolition work in Detroit.
Detroit’s chief procurement officer Boysie Jackson told the council committee on Monday that all contracts are linked because they were placed based on the capacity of each company.
“If one of the contracts is rejected, it affects all contracts,” he said.
Detroit Demolition director LaJuan Counts said in a statement to The News that residents are focused on improving conditions in their neighborhood.
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“Every day we hear from Detroiters asking us when the vacant house next to them is going to be demolished and we want to be able to get back to them as soon as possible,” she said.
The city had hoped to start dismantling in February and begin demolition in spring.
The election initiative was approved by a majority of Detroit voters in November. The aim is to demolish 8,000 destroyed homes and renovate another 8,000 that officials believe can be saved within five years.