Detroit Land Bank director resigns, board appoints interim

Detroit — The Detroit Land Bank Authority’s board of directors on Friday unanimously accepted the resignation of its executive director, Saskia Thompson, and named the deputy director to assume her role.

At a special meeting on Friday morning, Land Bank’s board approved the 5-0 transition plan, appointing Tammy Daniels as interim executive director.

Thompson is leaving the land bank after four years, “moving on to other opportunities,” the board said.

Erica Ward Gerson, chair of the organization’s board of directors, wished Thompson good luck in her endeavours.

“We are entering an exciting new phase at land banking, where our focus can shift to providing greater opportunities for Detroiters to purchase our remaining structures, finding new and innovative uses for our vacant land, and supporting our thousands of buyers. through the renovation of their homes,” Gerson said in a statement after the meeting. “With her many years of leadership experience in many areas of the DLBA, Tammy Daniels is ideal to lead us in these new ventures.

Daniels joined the land bank as an attorney in 2015 and quickly became an integral part of the management team as deputy, then acting general counsel, director of demolition and finally deputy executive director.

Tammy Daniels, deputy executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority, talks about demolitions in Detroit.

She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. She is a lawyer who also has a background in real estate.

The board noted that Daniels has helped the Land Preserve Demolition Program streamline operations and increase demolition capacity to more than 15,000 structures.

In 2018she spoke about the city’s initiative to increase inclusion in demolition contracts, when about 28% of the contract dollars – or $48 million – went to women-owned businesses or to minorities.

For the past two years, Daniels has led the land bank’s property rehabilitation arm, including compliance and rehabilitation and lending programs.

Rehabilitated and Loan Programwhich renovates and sells homes to improve property values ​​in Detroit neighborhoods, has flipped and sold 93 homes since its debut in 2015 and is targeting 200 more over the next five years, administrators told the Detroit News the last summer.

Daniels said at the meeting that she was excited about the opportunity and the direction the land bank is taking.

“I see the hard work our buyers put in every day in their communities, and as an organization, we are constantly learning and adapting to better support Detroit residents who want to reactivate degraded properties,” Daniels said in a statement. after the vote. “It has been a pleasure to work with Saskia on this leadership team, and I am confident that I can lead the organization through a smooth transition as we develop plans to carry out our mission in the future.”

At a special in-person meeting on Friday morning, Land Bank's board approved the transition plan, appointing deputy executive director Tammy Daniels as interim executive director.

A copy of the proposed agreement and proposed terms for an interim administrator was not immediately provided.

John Roach, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, deferred comments Thursday on the prospect of Thompson leaving on the landbank’s board or staff.

The public authority controls nearly all public residential structures in Detroit. He owns some of the city’s most neglected homes through a nuisance lawsuit program and is dedicated to restoring vacant, derelict, and foreclosed properties to productive use.

The land bank has undergone a series of senior staff reshuffles in recent years, including the direction of its demolition programme.

The Landbank Board hired Thompson in July 2017 following a nationwide search. She replaced Carrie Lewand-Monroe, who left for private development work.

The Detroit native returned to the city from a position in Philadelphia, where she served as deputy chief financial officer and served on the city’s planning commission. She also ran the Office of Property Data in Philly.

Thompson, a former public policy aide to former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, graduated from Cass Technical High School with a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan.

At first, she focused on improving the authority’s staff structure, transparency, and working with city agencies on long-term land use plans. It has implemented new policies for the sale of vacant lots with a greater emphasis on priority access.

The land bank also helped oversee, along with the Detroit Building Authority, the federally funded demolition program. The $265 million program destroyed more than 15,000 homes between spring 2014 and August 2020. But it has also been the subject of federal, state and local reviews and investigations into auction practices and costs .

The department has also come under scrutiny and been involved in a high profile battle with HGTV star Nicole Curtis.

Curtis, a Lake Orion native featured on the show “Rehab Addict Rescue,” sued the land bank over the house and eventually took control of the dilapidated property to continue her renovation plans.

In 2020, an independent audit of the land bank’s accounting practices highlighted concerns about supplier payments, demolition records to safeguard costs, and weak internal controls.

The forensic audit commissioned by Detroit’s Auditor General examined four years of financial statements, more than a dozen bank accounts and general ledgers to assess how city funding was recorded and spent by the land bank from January 1, 2014 to July 30. 2019.

Thompson hit back in a 45-page response to the Auditor General and the Detroit City Council, saying the audit had “numerous errors, oversights and omissions” and “there is no shortage of data.”

Twitter: @SarahRahal_