Detroit vows to continue legal battle for DeHoCo land





Nov. 1, 2013  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.


The City of Detroit wants the land erroneously sold to Plymouth Township returned and intends to pursue every legal avenue possible to reclaim the 190-acre property.

Last week, however, attorneys for Detroit were forced to withdraw their request for a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court regarding the lawsuit filed against Plymouth Township and Wayne County demanding the return of the land.

Plymouth Township Resident Richard Sharland with Detroit Law Department in July
Plymouth Township resident Richard Sharland with Detroit Law Department in July 2012

Detroit attorneys had requested the hearing to reopen the case that sought to reclaim 190-acres of the 300-plus acre property in Plymouth Township that was once home to the Detroit House of Corrections prison farm. The request for a motion hearing was filed on Oct.10.

John Nader, a lawyer for the City of Detroit, said that minutes before the court opened, Plymouth Township attorney Timothy Cronin called an impromptu meeting in the hallway with Nader and Wayne County attorney Jacob Ghannam. Cronin, Nader said, expressed his concerns about going forward with oral arguments before Judge Maria Oxholm, because of what he described as a “conflict of interest.”

The conflict of interest, according to Nader, had to do with the relationship of Plymouth Township with the law firm Miller-Canfield, the same firm that was chosen by the City of Detroit in the bankruptcy filing after Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr presented his financial and operating plan to the state treasurer last May.

Subsequently in court last week, Nader, withdrew the praecipe to lift the stay and dissolve the administrative closing.

The township paid $606,150 in 2011 for two parcels of land totaling 323 acres being foreclosed and sold by Wayne County for back taxes. According to an affidavit filed Jan. 9, by Detroit attorney Timothy Beckett, the 190-acre parcel of the former Detroit House of Corrections property bordered by Napier, Five Mile, Beck and Ridge roads still belonged to the City of Detroit.

A status conference took place July 5 in the Wayne County Court regarding the suit brought by attorneys for the plaintiff, the City of Detroit with the co-defendants, Plymouth Township and Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz.

Detroit City Attorney John Nader answers questions for council member Ken Cockrel
Detroit City Attorney John Nader answers questions for council member Ken Cockrel

In late August following the status conference, the City of Detroit filed a judicial order and administrative closing due to the bankruptcy filing in Judge Oxholm’s court.

Nader said that at the time attorneys for Detroit prepared the praecipe, and before filing on Oct. 10, he met with the Plymouth Township officials, along with Cronin, to try to resolve the title issue and avoid litigation.

“I met with your supervisor, treasurer and clerk with Mr. Cronin. Wayne County won’t give us a deed, Plymouth Township won’t give us a deed.” Nader said.

Nader noted that Detroit attorney Timothy Becket filed an affidavit of interest regarding the parcels and had stated there was a problem with the land title some time ago.

At the time the purchase agreement was drafted by Plymouth Township, Steve Mann served as a township trustee, and an employee of the Miller Canfield law firm.

In July 2011 the township board members approved a resolution “…To buy from the Office of the Wayne County Treasurer, First Right of Refusal for 2011 Foreclosure List, Parcel No. 78 001 99 0001 000 for an offered price of $287,679.85.”

At that time, Cronin openly questioned whether a super majority was needed for the purchase of property when trustees Mann and Mike Kelly voted no. Treasurer Ron Edwards, Trustee Kay Arnold, Trustee Bob Doroshewiz and Reaume carried the motion.

Late in August 2011, after reconvening from a closed session of a Board of Trustees Meeting, to discuss “Purchase of Real Property,” the board emerged with an Installment Purchase Agreement, drafted by Miller Canfield, on their letterhead, to purchase the subject prison property for a revised amount of $606,150, described only as, “Foreclosed property.” Within minutes all board members, with the exception of Mann, approved the resolution.

Mann was granted permission for an abstention on voting on the installment purchase agreement at his request, to “Avoid the appearance of impropriety.” because, as he said, he “worked for Miller-Canfield.”

Nader said he wasn’t concerned about the details right now, said after the court appearance last week, “We (City of Detroit) want our land back. We want our 190 acres back, and we’re not backing down. Case law in Michigan states you can’t foreclose on public land.”

“They just want us to sit down and shut-up.”

|News Plymouth Michigan

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