Feds question AP officials over Unity deal

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK —The federal government wants answers regarding from officials here on the city’s failed deal with Jimmy Lifton and Unity Studios.

According to published reports, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sent a letter recently to the city seeking answers to questions about the failed deal, which ended when Lifton and his two companies, Unity and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills, vacated the city’s Studio Center Complex in the fall after a year.

The letter asks questions about whether the city gave money to Lifton to influence his decision to set up in the city, whether the city overpaid for the property, and whether the city misled investors in a bond measure to pay for it.

The city bought the property for $25 million in 2008. Media reports and residents have alleged the city overpaid by more than $4 million for the property. A recent audit showed the property is currently worth $19.5 million.

Officials have projected a budget deficit of $7 million over the next four years and recently sent 30-day layoff notices to the entire 25-member Fire Department.

Some media outlets have reported the city made false promises to buyers of the $25 million in bonds secured for the project, telling them of Lifton’s failed promise to donate $2 million to the city in return for a larger investment from the city down the road.

The city has until Tuesday to answer the questions.

City Attorney Todd Flood told media outlets Thursday that it is prepared to do so, and to cooperate with the SEC.

(Contact Andrea Poteet at apoteet@bewickpublications.com.)