Detroit demo whistleblower exonerated

It took an Oakland County jury less than three hours to find former state contractor Barry Ellentuck not guilty of attempting to bilk the Detroit Land Bank of $6,000 in overcharges.

Charlie LeDuff:  "Do you feel vindicated?"

"No, I feel angry. I've been exonerated but I haven't been vindicated," Ellentuck said. "We've reported $37 million in public corruption and collusion and it’s not over yet. So, I'm angry as hell."

The case is deeper than one of simple fraud. Ellentuck is the whistleblower who alleged bid-rigging and collusion in the awarding of millions of dollars in demolition contracts between the city and preferred contractors.

The U.S. Department of Treasury and the FBI are in the midst of an investigation over allegations of abuse of those federal funds. It is an investigation that goes all the way to the office of Mayor Mike Duggan.

Duggan, who is scheduled to endorse Hillary Clinton this week in Philadelphia, did not respond to a request for statement by deadline.

He did tell us this late last year, however:

LeDuff: "This reads as though they came up with a price together and then went through the motions of ...”

Duggan: "They definitely discussed the price because they had meetings with these folks. You understand ..."

LeDuff: "How can you do that?"

The case against Ellentuck was opened by the state attorney general's office after our stories began airing about the irregularities in the demolition program. His acquittal lends validity should he be called before a federal grand jury.

LeDuff: "Why did they come after you?"

Ellentuck: "Charlie, I don't know. It sure smells fishy to me, doesn't it? I would hate to think that this would be a politically motivated prosecution."

The attorney general's office did not bring much of a case, their star witness backed away from earlier claims that Barry Ellentuck pressured him to pad billing hours.

LeDuff: Are you working with the federal authorities in their investigation into the demolition program?"

Ellentuck: "I can't comment on any ongoing investigation."

As for that federal investigation into the demolition project in Detroit, it continues and we'll bring you details as they become available.