Detroit Treasurer stepping down over experience issues
Detroit’s treasurer and deputy chief financial officer will take the role of a newly created position with Detroit’s Land Bank Authority after being asked to step down because of a lack of experience with finance operations.
David Szymanski, who joined Detroit’s administration in the senior level position about a year ago, starts with the land bank Monday as its director of legal programs, overseeing nuisance abatement lawsuits and quiet title efforts, said Craig Fahle, a spokesman for the land bank.
Detroit CFO John Hill said he asked Szymanski to step down based on his lack of background in Treasury operations and Szymanski and Mayor Mike Duggan agreed he’d be better suited elsewhere.
“It’s not at all contentious. It’s really a meeting of the minds and understanding that we needed to go in a different direction,” Hill said Thursday. “I have the utmost respect for Dave and the work he has done in Treasury.”
Szymanski, 62, a former probate judge, was appointed last February as Detroit’s treasurer. He was earning $158,000 per year as part of the team leading the city’s restructured financial operations. He will be taking a pay cut with the land bank, earning $120,000 annually.
“It’s my belief the people would be better served by a treasurer with a greater level of experience in relation to accounting,” Szymanski said.
Hill said the team Szymanski assembled will step in during the transition. No time table is set to fill the job.
The land bank operates separately outside the city’s purview.
Szymanski, meanwhile, touted Detroit Treasury’s “tremendous progress” refinancing $620 million in debt, cleaning up processes and migrating to a new information technology system.
“When I accepted the position with Detroit, I told the mayor anywhere you need me I’m willing to serve,” he said. “We have been considering what might be the best use of my background.”
Szymanski’s legal background and experience with distressed properties made the land bank a natural choice, officials said.
“He’s a perfect fit for the needs of the department,” Fahle said. “You can’t ask for much more than what he brings to the table.”
The staffing announcement is the latest from the land bank in recent days amid an ongoing reorganization.
Other changes have been tied to Detroit’s demolition program, which is the focus of a federal criminal investigation.
Last week, the land bank announced the resignation of its demolition program director and on Tuesday confirmed the exit of another employee who had held a prominent role in the federally funded blight reduction effort.
The changes came after the land bank last month released copies of subpoenas it had received in the spring from the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The subpoenas requested documents from more than two dozen employees of the land bank and Detroit Building Authority, which together oversee the city’s demolition program, pertaining to federally funded contracts and several demolition contractors.
The effort came under scrutiny in the fall of 2015 amid concerns over bidding practices and spiraling costs. The city and land bank have defended the program and said they are fully cooperating with all investigations.
Szymanski said the federal probe into demolition activities did not give him pause.
“It gives me greater reason to actually become involved,” said Szymanski, noting the “mind boggling” progress with demolition under the Duggan administration.
“When you go from a staff of three to 120 in a couple years, you expect growing pains. I’m hoping by becoming involved, I can assist the land bank in addressing any issues that they might have. I don’t believe there are any issues criminally, and I just look forward to assisting in any way I can.”
Szymanski will report to Michael Brady, the land bank’s general counsel.
Before his appointment with the city, Szymanski served as the chief deputy treasurer to former Wayne County Treasurer Raymond J. Wojtowicz from 2010 to 2015.