Demo firm faces discipline for tearing down wrong house

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — One of Detroit’s largest demolition contractors could face a 90-day suspension from the federally funded program for mistakenly tearing down a house it wasn’t contracted to demolish.

City officials on Wednesday confirmed a construction crew from Detroit-based Adamo Group informed the Detroit Building Authority last month that it has mistakenly knocked down a land bank-owned house at 5792 Holcomb, that according to records, hadn’t yet been abated for asbestos, rather than the neighboring property it had been contracted to tear down.

“Any time one of our demolition contractors commits a serious violation, we act immediately to address it,” said Brian Farkas, director of special projects for the city’s Building Authority, which oversees the program along with the land bank, in a statement.

Farkas said while the building authority appreciated Adamo’s disclosure, the incident is “unacceptable” and that the firm has been sent a violation letter for “wrongful demolition.”

The notice of the violation was issued on May 10, giving Adamo seven days to challenge it, he added.

Adamo’s suspension from bidding on properties, officials say, would kick in if it does not seek to challenge the violation, or if it does proceed with an appeal and is unsuccessful.

“This is the same action we take for any company based on an infraction of this nature,” Farkas said. “Adamo has the right to appeal our decision as a part of our due process.”

Christian Hauser, an attorney for Adamo, said Wednesday that the firm is declining to comment at this time.

Adamo, which has been among the contractors bidding on houses under a blight elimination effort that ramped up in Detroit in spring 2014, has had an “excellent track record” with the program, according to Farkas, who noted the firm has done more than 3,200 demolitions without any prior Michigan Department of Environmental Quality violations.

The property the company took down was also in the demolition pipeline but awaiting funding, according to documents accompanying the citation letter.

An Adamo staffer on May 4 advised the city’s Building, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department that they had been under contract to demolish a house at 5798 Holcomb and instead took down the neighboring property, according to field notes.

Adamo discovered it had taken down the wrong house after contacting the building department to conduct an inspection.

“They had the house at 5798 abated, and the house at 5792 was not abated,” the field notes say.

Several other contractors in the program faced suspensions last summer amid claims they doctored photographs of sidewalks to obtain payment for work they had not done.

Those cases emerged from an investigation conducted by the city’s Office of Inspector General after the Detroit Land Bank Authority raised concerns.

The city has taken down more than 14,000 blighted houses since spring 2014 under a program primarily funded with federal Hardest Hit Funds.

The program has been the focus of state, local and federal reviews after concerns were raised in fall 2015 over bidding practices and spiraling costs.