May 26, 2022 - News

Detroit demolition contractor under investigation

Inner City Contracting demolishes a vacant house.

Inner City Contracting demolishes a vacant house. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

The city's inspector general is nearing the end of an ongoing investigation into questionable business practices by a prominent demolition company.

Why it matters: The city frequently hires the company, Inner City Contracting, to tear down vacant houses as part of its goal to eradicate residential blight.

  • Inner City won lucrative demolition contracts while previously certified as a Detroit-based business and as a small business.
  • Those certifications expired in April and the city did not renew them.
  • The company's past certifications – which can provide an edge when bidding on contracts – are part of the investigation.

By the numbers: Inner City has been awarded nearly $10 million in contracts under Proposal N – a $250 million bond issue voters approved in 2020 to fund the city's blight elimination program.

The latest: The City Council voted Tuesday to postpone voting on more than 20 Inner City contracts.

  • "I personally don't feel comfortable moving forward with Inner City until the inspector general's investigation is complete," City Council President Mary Sheffield said during Tuesday's meeting.

Flashback: Sheffield requested an inspector general investigation after receiving documents "which may in fact point to ICC being a shell company for a larger suburban company," according to a memo Sheffield sent Inspector General Ellen Ha in February.

  • "If true, ICC has been fraudulently winning demolition contracts set aside" for Detroit companies and small businesses, the memo reads.
  • The city has made hiring Detroit companies a priority in awarding demolition contracts.

The other side: Inner City owner Curtis Johnson declined Axios' request to comment on the investigation. "I love Detroit, I love my company, I love God and I'm exactly who I say I am," he said.

State of play: The inspector general has a track record of conducting independent investigations into government waste, abuse, fraud and corruption.

  • The office can debar contractors from doing business with the city if it is in the city's best interest.

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