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Judge delays decision on unsealing demolition subpoena

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Wayne Circuit Court judge held off Friday on any decision concerning the possible release of a subpoena sent to the Detroit Land Bank Authority after U.S. Department of Justice officials expressed concerns.

A Detroit activist seeks the release of documents regarding a criminal probe of the city’s demolition program while attorneys for the city and Justice Department want all of its contents to remain secret.

Judge David J. Allen was told that releasing a subpoena sent to the Detroit Land Bank Authority in May would compromise the federal investigation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Allegations have been made regarding conflicts of interest between the city's building authority and officers, alleged no-bid contracts and collusion among contractors who have received millions of dollars in demolition contracts.

Allen was given a sealed copy of the subpoena along with a federal “declaration of harm” that presumably outlined concerns. Allen was to review the documents privately in chambers and will revisit the issue at 9 a.m. Sept. 1.

“The policy of the FOI Act is for full disclosure of public documents,” said Andrew Paterson, an attorney for Robert Davis and A Felon’s Crusade for Equality, Honesty and Truth, a nonprofit watchdog group.

“This (Detroit Land Bank) is a public entity, these are public dollars and this is public business and the subpoena is a public document,” Paterson told Allen in the brief hearing.

Attorneys for the Land Bank and the Justice Department left the courtroom after Allen said he would read their documents. They declined interviews.

Earlier this week, Christy Goldsmith Romero with the Troubled Asset Relief Program filed a document that said: “Disclosing the scope and focus of the investigation would jeopardize ongoing law enforcement efforts by alerting current and potential persons and entities, including those named in the subpoena who would be notified upon publication of the investigation's scope and focus, that they are or could become the subject of the federal investigation and for what specific conduct.”

The subpoena issue comes just weeks after the sudden resignation of Jim Wright, the deputy director of the Detroit Building Authority, who oversaw the massive blight-removal program.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319