Wayne County jail project: Contract cancelled, prosecutor investigating

(WXYZ) - Two big developments happened Thursday with the over-budget Wayne County jail project.

The construction contractor was fired and now the Wayne County Prosecutor is confirming that she is investigating the pricey project.

The 7 Action News Investigators first reported on Tuesday on wxzy.com that there are new allegations of wrongdoing with the over-budget Wayne County jail.

Thursday afternoon, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is confirming she has now received a report from County Auditor General Willie Mayo,  and she is conducting a criminal investigation into the jail project.

Sources tell 7 Action News that there are allegations Robert Ficano's administration may have withheld critical information from the County Commission when they approved the $300 million project in 2010.

"Did you or any member of your staff withhold information from the commission," 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo asked Ficano on Wednesday.

"I think if you look at it from this point we've always been up front with everything we've said to the Commission," said Ficano.

Meanwhile Thursday, the Wayne County Building Authority took the Ficano administration to task – blaming his staff for not hiring an owner's representative sooner to keep a closer eye on the jail project.

"That was at the insistence of the oversight committee and they felt that they could indeed do due diligence and serve that purpose, and of course hindsight is 20/20 and that certainly didn't happen," said Eileen DeHart, President of the Building Authority.

A key member of that oversight committee was Ficano's Chief Financial Officer Carla Sledge.

Today the building authority voted unanimously to terminate the construction contract with Walbridge-dck. 

They will now explore moving the jail and Circuit Court to the State's old Mound Road Correctional Facility.  They're also going to vet 3 bids from major developers to purchase the jail site and surrounding properties in downtown Detroit.

An independent review of the project showed the program manager, AECOM,  approved $42 million in proposed changes to the design of the jail that were never authorized-- and go far beyond the project's guaranteed maximum price.

"It's BS! You can't be $42 million over what's projected… you've got a GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) in there of $220 million – very clear language that if you are going to go over that – you report that back to us," said Building Authority member Jim Saros

Robert Ficano's spokeswoman released this statement about the Auditor General's report that has been sent to the prosecutor:

"We only received his draft report yesterday and there are numerous inaccuracies we will address with Mr. Mayo. We also intend to ask the Auditor General for documentation supporting his conclusions."

The FBI is also investigating the project.

The county will spend the next 30-60 days exploring financing options for the Mound Road facility and they will start meeting with the developers who want to buy the downtown properties.

If you have a tip for Heather Catallo please email her: hcatallo@wxyz.com or call 248-827-4473.

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