High-ranking Detroit demolition official resigns amid federal investigation

A Detroit Land Bank demolition. Photos By Steve Neavling.
A Detroit Land Bank demolition. Photos By Steve Neavling.

A top demolition official for the city of Detroit has abruptly resigned amid a federal investigation into the city’s program to raze thousands of blighted houses and commercial buildings.

Jim Wright stepped down Wednesday as deputy director of the Detroit Building Authority.

City officials are refusing to discuss why Wright resigned, only saying that he won’t receive a severance.

Wright, who had been making $205,000 a year, was an appointee and long-time ally of Mayor Duggan.

The city’s demolition program is under investigation by the FBI and Office of the Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or SIGTARP.

Wright is the first high-ranking official in the Duggan administration to resign amid the investigation.

Wright was involved in selecting demolition contractors and has been criticized for meeting privately with select companies that have donated to Duggan’s campaign and his nonprofit, Detroit Progress Fund.

Wright has been replaced with Timothy Palazzolo, who has been named demolition operations manager for the Detroit Building Authority.

“Tim has done a tremendous job managing our city-funded demolitions, so he is a natural fit to take on this added responsibility,” Tyrone Clifton, DBA director, said in a press release. “He knows the ins and outs of the program and has been dedicated to making sure these demolitions are done as fast and as safe as possible.”

Clifton didn’t return our calls for comment.

In a press release, the city said:

Palazzolo has been with the DBA since April 2015, and has most recently managed Detroit’s city-funded commercial and residential demolitions. This includes everything from pre-demolition due diligence and contract procurement through to the demolition.

Before joining the DBA, Palazzolo spent 12 years at the City of Detroit’s Planning & Development Department (PDD). There, he worked in master planning and the Neighborhood Enterprise Zone program (NEZ), and was the environmental officer for all HUD-funded programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

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Steve Neavling

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.

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