Senator Hunter Introduces Legislation to Reform Wayne County Land Bank
Bill would prevent controversial land transfers and payouts to ensure greater accountability and transparency
LANSING”Senator Tupac A. Hunter (D-Detroit) introduced new legislation today that would protect taxpayer dollars by reforming the Wayne County Land Bank in Michigan. His bill will implement guidelines for the appointments to the Land Bank Authority, increase transparency and require reporting guidelines from the Executive Director to the Land Bank Authority, and reform the funding and property transfer process to ensure proper oversight and approval on such decisions.
“We unfortunately have seen time and again that some Wayne County officials will abuse their positions as long as the law will allow it,” said Senator Hunter. “This bill will provide guidelines to clean up the Wayne County Land Bank's governance and activity to prevent any further political or financial abuse and restore it to its original intent of helping residents and improving our neighborhoods.”
The Wayne County Land Bank has been mired in controversy and is under federal investigation following the Turkia Mullin scandal that revealed she had secured five no-bid contracts for nearly $750,000 for her and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano's friends and political contributors when she ran the Wayne County Land Bank. Mullin helped create the land bank and gave herself the ability to personally and singularly approve contracts up to $100,000 or 100 parcels of land. One board member wanted to lower the price of those contracts that could be approved without input from the Wayne County Land Bank board, but was overruled by the other members of the board.
Following the fallout of the Turkia Mullin scandal, Ficano has since agreed to several reforms of the Wayne County Land Bank, but he has not yet ceded his ability to appoint a majority number of members on the Wayne County Land Bank board. The current land bank board is comprised of five members”a Wayne County Commission representative, the Wayne County Treasurer, and three appointees by the Wayne County Executive.
Senator Hunter's bill would establish that the current Wayne County Land Bank board be dissolved and replaced with a new board comprised of seven members: the County Treasurer, two individuals appointed by the County Treasurer, two individuals appointed by the Board of Commissioners and two individuals by the County Executive. The legislation also will:
˘ Require the executive director and every other land bank employee to get board approval of any and all expenditures.
˘ Establish written guidelines for operating any land bank programs and place those guidelines online.
˘ Create and maintain a website for posting all competitive bids solicited by and all contracts entered into by the land bank.
˘ And require the executive director of the land bank to biannually submit performance objectives to the authority board to be reviewed and evaluated by the board.
Sen. Hunter represents the 5th District, which is comprised of Northwest Detroit, Dearborn Heights and Inkster. He serves as the Minority Floor Leader. He is the Minority Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking & Financial Institutions and the Senate Committee on Economic Development. He is a member of the Senate Government Operations Committee.