Eric Sabree welcomes investigations of family's role in tax foreclosure auction

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News
Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree

Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree embraced two separate county reviews of his family's property purchases from his office's tax auction, he said in a statement Thursday.

"We welcome the Wayne County Commission expedited audit review and County Executive’s ethics review," Sabree's statement read. "We fully agree that there must be total transparency in this office and in all county operations." 

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and the chair of the Wayne County Commission Alisha Bell on Wednesday called for the reviews of the real estate transactions detailed Tuesday in a Detroit News investigation, which Evans called "extremely troubling."

The disclosures have heightened controversy over the auction, in which properties are seized for delinquent taxes and sold by the Treasurer's office at auction with no recompense to the homeowner.

Among The News findings were that that U.S. Development Services, a company Sabree formed in 2002 and run by his wife, bought three foreclosed Harper Woods homes for $58,000 in the 2011 auction while he was a deputy treasurer coordinating the sale. Auction rules ban treasurer employees and their family members from bidding and buying property.

Sabree's statement Thursday said the 2011 purchases weren't a violation because the auction was run by a contractor hired by the treasurer's office at the time. Since 2014, the online auction has been run by the treasurer's office.  

Sabree's son, Adam, an attorney, was listed as a successful auction bidder in 2017, pledging $9,600 for an east side brick home on Gallagher near Eight Mile and Ryan roads, according to county records.

Adam Sabree said it was a mistake and he did not bid and Eric Sabree said he wasn't aware his son was listed as a bidder.

The county's prohibitions on family participation cite no penalty for violations.