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Detroit Land Bank director leaving her position

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority is leaving her post for a consulting role within the agency as well as private development work, officials announced Tuesday.

In a news release, Detroit’s land bank said Carrie Lewand-Monroe is leaving the organization to be a consultant for Invest Detroit, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

Lewand-Monroe during a board of directors meeting on Tuesday was emotional as she thanked staff and reflected on her accomplishments.

"I've never worked beside so many wonderful, passionate people," said Lewand-Monroe, holding back tears.

Lewand-Monroe joined the land bank in 2014 and was appointed as its executive director in December 2015.

In her tenure, more than 6,200 side lots were sold, nearly 11,000 abandoned and dangerous properties were torn down and 3,000 others are being renovated in neighborhoods across Detroit.

DLBA Board Chair Erica Ward Gerson added Tuesday she's happy Lewand-Monroe will continue to aid the land bank in its transition.

"She has agreed to continue to work with us, and I'm deeply grateful for that," she said.

But the land bank has been met with some hurdles as it has grown over the last few years while it ramped up its massive blight elimination efforts. The program came under scrutiny in the fall of 2015 amid concerns over bidding practices and spiraling costs. It’s currently the subject of federal, state and local reviews.

The land bank will conduct a nationwide search for Lewand-Monroe’s replacement. She intends to remain as executive director through mid-May. After that, she will continue to serve the authority as a consultant and assist with the transition and upcoming arbitration with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

The arbitration seeks to resolve a dispute stemming from an ongoing review of the demolition program’s billing practices, which turned up $7.3 million in what the state has argued are “inappropriate” or “inaccurate” costs.

The vast majority of the questionable expenses were tied to a controversial set-price bid pilot in 2014 designed to quickly bring down big bundles of homes. Mayor Mike Duggan has rejected the state’s assertion that about $6 million tied to costs of the pilot were inappropriate.

Meanwhile, the city will pay back $1.3 million mainly tied to costs previously flagged as ineligible last year in an independent audit commissioned by the land bank, which jointly oversees the program with the Detroit Building Authority.

Federally funded demolition efforts in Detroit resumed last fall following a two-month suspension in August after an ongoing review by the Michigan Housing Authority, in conjunction with MSHDA turned up errors.

Lewand-Monroe, officials noted Tuesday, has helped the land bank with the creation of new programs and strengthened controls to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations under the demolition program, which is primarily funded with federal “Hardest Hit” dollars.

“We appreciate Carrie’s service at the land bank,” Duggan said in a released statement. “She is leaving the DLBA in a strong position, and we wish her the best in all her future endeavors.”

Lewand-Monroe, an attorney with a background in land use and housing policy, formerly served as director of policy at Detroit Future City, and as executive director of the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“We are thrilled to be able to tap the experience and expertise of someone like Carrie,” said Dave Blaszkiewicz, president and CEO of Invest Detroit.