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The city’s Office of Inspector General has lifted an interim suspension for Detroit-based Inner City Contracting after an investigation found the company didn’t submit false documentation to claim it was based in the city. The city is in the midst of a $250 million bond program that aims to tear down thousands of blighted houses and stabilize thousands more. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

A suspension was lifted Tuesday for one of the most prominent contractors in the city’s $250 million demolition effort after an investigation found no evidence to support claims that the firm had falsified documentation to be certified as a city-based small business.

Detroit’s Office of the Inspector General announced it was rescinding a 90-day interim suspension imposed in June for Inner City Contracting, its president Curtis Johnson and associates Laura Durocher and Gerald Durocher. The suspension was tied to a February complaint alleging that the company had submitted fraudulent information about whether it was located in the city to Detroit’s Civil Rights Inclusion and Opportunity Department (CRIO). 

The city’s procurement office and CRIO are tasked with certifying whether contractors are based in the city and CRIO gives contractors “credits” for being Detroit based. The companies then use those credits during the bidding process. The credits, along with other factors like timeliness and cost, help the city select which companies will be awarded contracts. 

The complaint to the OIG alleged that Inner City was being used as a front for a suburban company to get Detroit Based Business, Detroit Small Business and Detroit Headquartered Business certifications. Those certifications, it alleged, resulted in the company being awarded demolition contracts set aside for companies that “legitimately met the qualifications” for CRIO certifications. 

The OIG’s office in a news release said that the interim suspension had been issued after four months of investigation “with less than ideal cooperation” and that it had been based on “the information collected and analyzed by the OIG at that time.”

The OIG, after reviewing information Inner City sent to CRIO, issued a report on its findings that concluded the company did not unfairly obtain demolition contracts or any Detroit-specific certifications. 

The company is now eligible for city demolition contracts and can resume bidding, the OIG said. 

Inner City could not be immediately reached Tuesday for comment.

A recent BridgeDetroit analysis of demolition funds showed Inner City received $10.4 million in demolition contracts under the city’s bond program, Proposal N, as in neighborhoods. The contracts awarded thus far to Inner City represent the fifth most of all contractors in the program. 

Proposal N was approved by voters in November 2020. Since the bond passed, the city has spent more than $50 million tearing down or stabilizing vacant homes.

Detroit Demolition Director LaJuan Counts said in a Tuesday statement that her office respects OIG’s decision to rescind Inner City’s suspension.

“We’ve seen the positive transformation of neighborhoods through Proposal N and we need all the contractor capacity to continue making our neighborhoods safer and more attractive,” Counts said.

The OIG’s office said that after the interim suspension was issued, the parties began to fully cooperate with the investigation, submitting detailed timely written responses and producing hundreds of pages of documents. An administrative hearing also was held July 26, the OIG said.

Beyond its ability to bid on contracts, Inner City can also now serve as a subcontractor or as a goods, services or materials supplier for any contract, the OIG’s office wrote.

In the report, Detroit Inspector General Ellen Ha summarized the conclusion of her office’s investigation and stressed the importance of cooperation.

“We do not request information for the sake of requesting information,” Ha said. “We do not suspend or debar contractors just because we can. It is in the public interest for the OIG to obtain all relevant facts to ensure our findings are factually accurate.”

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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