Contracting Questions

DETROIT–The city of Detroit and one of its paid contractors came under scrutiny late last year for the appearance of an improper relationship involving campaign contributions and a winning $26 million contract with the city’s Water and Sewer Department.

Frank Vallecorsa, owner of Best American Industrial Services, paid for one Detroit city official’s trip to a 1996 political convention and donated almost $29,000 to members of the Detroit City Council. In addition, Water and Sewer Department Director Stephen Gorden accompanied Vallecorsa, by private jet, to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The Detroit Free Press reported last November that Vallecorsa also picked up a handful of Gorden’s meals while there.

While the visit to Chicago and purchase of Gorden’s meals did not violate laws, they did raise a few eyebrows. Karen Holcomb-Merill of Common Cause of Michigan told the Detroit Free Press that "when a public official receives anything of value, it raises questions as to whether it’s influencing a decision that the public official makes." Common Cause is a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizens’ lobbying organization that promotes open, honest, and accountable government.