In a piece published in The Detroit News on February 12, 2019 entitled “Wayne County treasurer breaks tax auction rules,” Christine MacDonald elaborates upon an investigation the newspaper started involving the county’s chief tax collector, Eric Sabree. As the leader of “one of the largest government foreclosure auctions in the nation,” according to MacDonald’s reporting, Sabree violated the rules as bidders were competing against members of Sabree’s family.
While there are no penalties for the violation, auction rules stipulate that treasury employees and their immediate families may not participate in the public auction. The fact that Sabree’s sons and his wife’s real estate company (formerly under Sabree’s supervision) came into possession of several properties suggests a degree of foul play, according to Professor emeritus John Chamberlin of the Ford School.
"(Husband and wife) is as close of a relationship as you can have…There is no way to build a wall between the two” said Chamberlin. Given the intimacy of the relationship and Sabree’s former control of the real estate company, the trend “has people wondering who is playing favorites.”
While Sabree has downplayed the significance of the familial involvement, Professor emeritus Chamberlin contends that for this very reason, there “needs [to be] a lot of transparency” in the future.
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John R. Chamberlin is a professor emeritus of political science and public policy. Professor Chamberlain was also the director of the Ford School’s BA in Public Policy program from 2007-2011, as well as the director of U-M’s Center for Ethics in Public Life from 2008-2011. Professor Chamberlain is also affiliated with the Association for Public Policy and the Management Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.