Monday, January 10, 2011

In contempt: Bridge Co. president jailed

Posted By on Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Jaws dropped in a Wayne County Circuit Court  Monday morning when Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., was handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies and taken to jail after the company, which is owned by billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun, was cited for contempt.

Along with sending Stamper to jail, Judge Prentis Edwards fined the DIBC $7,500 for refusing to comply with his order, issued nearly a year ago, to complete its portion of the Gateway Project as agreed to in a contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

A public-private endeavor, the $230 million Gateway Project involved major changes to Interstates 75 and 96 in southwest Detroit to provide direct freeway access for traffic entering and leaving the Ambassador Bridge.

However, Edwards ruled last February that the bridge company had failed to fulfill its portion of the contract, and ordered the removal of fuel pumps, toll booths and a portion of a duty free shop that didn’t comply with plans MDOT and the DIBC had previously agreed to. That ruling could end up costing the company tens of millions of dollars — or more.

Lawyers for the company had no comment following Monday's court order.

Also constructed illegally was a massive ramp intended to connect to a hoped-for second span Moroun wants to build next to the Ambassador Bridge, which his company owns. One apparent consequence of Edwards’ ruling is the demolition of what has been dubbed the “ramp to nowhere.” It is unclear how that second span — which has yet to receive approval from either the U.S. or Canadian governments — could be completed without the ramp.

Edwards ruled that Stamper would remain locked up until “the DIBC begins to comply with the Feb. 1, 2010 order, or he no longer has the power to comply with the Feb. 1, 2010 order.”

"Today's ruling sends a strong message that you cannot ignore a court order,” William Shreck, acting director of communications for MDOT, said in a press release. “It is time to obey the court and build what we all agreed to."

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