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Duggan: No further charges expected in demolition probe "a great relief"

A demolition on Detroit's east side.
Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan took a bit of a victory lap Wednesday, after learning that no more indictments are expected to fall on city hall from a federal probe into the city’s demolition program.

Federal authorities took an unusual step this week, and announced that no more “public officials” are likely to face charges from the years-long investigation.

This week, two people pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and helping rig bids for Detroit demolition contracts. Both men worked for the Adamo Group, one of the city’s major demolition contractors. One also worked briefly as a city employee involved in soliciting bids for demolition contracts.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says this lifts a cloud that’s been hanging over city government and the demolition program.

“98% of what occurred in this case had nothing to do with the city,” said Duggan, adding he feels Adamo was also a “victim” of this scheme.

As for how the demolition program is running now, “I feel extremely good about the job that the building authority and the [Detroit] land bank and the city procurement folks are doing today,” he said.

Duggan said other problems with the demolition program, such as contractors improperly handling asbestos materials and using potentially contaminated dirt as infill, have been addressed. He doesn’t see a need for increased oversight or quality controls.

“I think where we are is good. Anybody who has violated the rules, we have suspended or disbarred from the program,” Duggan said. “Any incident in which dirt was not properly vetted, we have required it to be tested or dug up. I’m very confident.”

Duggan has admitted to “mistakes,” but otherwise staunchly defends his demolition program, which has brought down more than 17,000 vacant structures as part of an ambitious blight elimination effort. The program has been funded primarily by more than $250 million from the federal Hardest Hit Fund.

It’s not yet clear if more charges are coming for demolition contractors or contractor employees implicated in the corruption. During his plea hearing Aradondo Haskins, the ex-Adamo and city employee who part in the bid-rigging scheme, identified his bribe-payer as the firm Environmental Specialty Services.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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