Lawmaker seeks answers after her Detroit house disappears

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is searching for answers after a house her nonprofit was renovating to give to a family in need was razed without warning.

"It’s just a mystery. The house disappeared," said the Detroit Democrat, who represents Michigan's 8th District on Detroit's northwest side, on Monday. "It’s like they dug around (the house) with a spatula and lifted the basement out. There's nothing there."

A house at 14567 Minock in Detroit belonging to State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo's nonprofit was demolished and removed without her knowing. "It's just a mystery. The house disappeared," she said.

Gay-Dagnogo, founder of the Coalition to Integrate Technology and Education, said the organization has purchased several properties from the Detroit Land Bank Authority near city parks with the goal of revitalizing them. 

But the razing of the house at 14567 Minock near Stoepel Park is a "huge mystery," said Gay-Dagnogo, adding there doesn't seem to be a record of a demolition permit nor any effort to ensure utilities had been disconnected. 

"It's baffling, and really, it's an opportunity to learn the process of what it takes for a demolition," said Gay-Dagnogo, who met with police on Saturday.

Detroit assistant police chief David LeValley confirmed late Monday that the department has opened a criminal investigation into the incident. 

Detroit Building Authority Director Tyrone Clifton, in a provided statement, said the demolition "was not ordered, directed or funded by the city."

"There also was no permit pulled by any private party for demolition at this address," Clifton confirmed. "At this time, we are actively investigating to see if we can help determine who was responsible." 

In mid-June, the house sustained damage when an adjacent property owned by the city caught fire.

Gay-Dagnogo said the house had undergone an investment of about $42,000 for a new roof and windows and other repairs. The nonprofit purchased the property for about $1,000 and the sale closed on July 25, 2018. 

But in mid-June, it sustained damage when an adjacent property owned by the city caught fire. The fire-damaged house at 14561 Minock, she said, was razed in July by the demolition firm Adamo Group. That work was fully completed on July 19, according to the city. 

Christian Hauser, an attorney for Adamo, said Monday that Adamo "had nothing to do with the demolition of the structure at 14567 Minock." 

Since the fire, Gay-Dagnogo said her nonprofit and its partners ensured the house was secure and were seeking quotes to have repair work done. The city, she said, had set a compliance deadline of Oct. 14.

"Our insurance company sent us communication that highlighted our house was not a total loss, it could be rehabbed," she said. "We were working and getting quotes from different organizations to determine our best path forward after the fire."

Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo said the house, which her nonprofit bought in July 2018,  had undergone an investment of about $42,000 for a new roof and windows and other repairs.

A blight busting group went to the property last Thursday to do an assessment and provide a quote for the rehab work. That's when, she said, they "let us know the house was no longer there."

Gay-Dagnogo said she expects to attend Detroit City Council's formal session on Tuesday to discuss the incident. Mayor Mike Duggan and Council President Brenda Jones have reached out about the incident, saying they would investigate, she said. 

Duggan's office said Monday that the mayor would not be commenting. Jones could not be immediately reached. 

"The decision was made for us without notice. I'm at a loss," Gay-Dagnogo said. "How does this happen? What if I was just an individual who purchased a home and was trying to rebuild it to live in?"

Staff Writer George Hunter contributed.