County Commission terminates unfinished jail construction audit

The Wayne County Commission voted unanimously March 3 to terminate the Wayne County Consolidated Jail Facility construction audit that was started in 2013 and ordered stopped that year, before the audit was completed.

The reasoning from the county’s Office of Legislative Auditor General includes the time that’s lapsed and that almost all of the key people involved no longer work for the county, through retirements and the change in the county administration in January 2015.

“The commission and other county officials had been waiting more than two years to see the jail audit, which was frustratingly sealed by court order,” said Commissioner Raymond Basham (D-Taylor) current chairman of the Committee on Audit. “The audit, though incomplete, showed many instances of how the jail project went off the rails. It’s a lesson learned for all involved – a very painful, expensive lesson.”

The county requested the audit from the Office of Legislative Auditor General in June 2013 because of cost overruns at the jail under construction at the corner of Gratiot and St. Antoine in downtown Detroit. In August 2013, suspected fraud was reported by the Office of Legislative Auditor General to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

On Sept. 18, 2013, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny ordered that the partially completed audit not be released to the public because the issue was going before a one-man grand jury. On Dec. 18, 2015, Kenny ruled on a request from the Detroit Free Press, ordering that a copy of the incomplete audit be publicly released.

The Office of Legislative Auditor General made a presentation to the Committee on Audit on Feb. 24 on why the audit should be terminated, and the committee voted unanimously to forward the recommendation to the full commission for a final vote.

“Though the audit couldn’t be completed, it provided valuable information to the commission and the committee,” Basham said. “The issues raised in this audit have allowed the current commission and new administration to ensure that major projects like this are being held to a higher standard, with increased transparency and accountability to the taxpayers.”