The message was clear: Find a pro-developer to place on a commission devoted to preserving historic buildings.
Mayor Mike Duggan’s order, which some city authorities said broke state law, resulted in the selection of ex-DWSD employee Kenneth Sanders as a member of the Detroit Historic District Commission in late April. The Duggan campaign supporter replaced long-time member, Julie Long, who was forced out after the mayor’s administration claimed the city lost records that showed she was sworn in for a third term.
Since his appointment, Sanders has shown up late, and on Wednesday evening, left a meeting early without explanation, forcing the commission to end its session halfway through because there was no quorum. Records also show that Sanders owed as much as ,000 in delinquent taxes and water bills at the time of his appointment.
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Residents were irate Wednesday because the commission’s agenda was packed with important issues, and Sanders walked out of the meeting with no explanation.
“With a city hall auditorium full of citizens, advisors and items waiting to be discussed, it is extraordinary,” said David Lilly, who was in attendance. “If I were the mayor I’d be deeply embarrassed.”
Mayor Duggan’s office didn’t return our calls for an interview today.
The commission is missing a member because the Detroit City Council has refused to vote on Duggan’s latest appointment after Motor City Muckraker revealed the mayor’s attempt to remove commissioners and replace them with pro-developers.
Duggan began removing members of the commission after it became clear that there were not enough votes to support the demolition of the historic Hotel Park Avenue. On June 10, Sanders made a motion to demolish the building, and the commission voted 3-1 in support.
Duggan’s administration repeatedly denied playing a role in the hotel demolition vote but later acknowledged lobbying each of the commissioners.
The building is set to be imploded this weekend.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.