By Jack Lessenberry
Two months ago, the world sat up and took notice when Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards threw Manuel Moroun, the 84-year-old owner of the Ambassador Bridge, in jail for failing to comply with court orders and demolish the illegal construction his company built as part of the Gateway project.
The bridge company and the state made a deal in 2004 to do certain things to improve access to the bridge, but Moroun flagrantly violated the agreement in a way designed to maximize his own profits. Why this aged billionaire needed to gouge people more isn’t clear, but I am not an expert on psychological entomology.
He and the guy who runs the company for him, Dan Stamper, were jailed after two years of blatantly ignoring the judge. Higher courts let Matty out the next day. But they made it clear he had better follow court orders. Cowed, he said he would. But weeks later, state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents the area in question, was saying that nothing substantial had been done. Last week the judge agreed.
Proving he wants results, not revenge, Edwards said he wasn’t interested any longer in jailing Matty, but instead took the project away from him. He ordered the Michigan Department of Transportation to get it done, and ordered the bridge company to make $16 million available to the state to do it.
The day before, even the Republicans on the Michigan Supreme Court told Matty to get lost when he came whining to them and asking them to do something to save him from justice.
All this should make it abundantly clear to any thinking person what kind of creature we are dealing with here. That is, with the exception of the many legislators Moroun has effectively bought off with campaign “donations.”
This would be an ideal time for the governor to do the right thing and announce plans to form an authority to build the badly needed new bridge across the Detroit River. Moroun will sue, or course, since that seems to be the only thing that gives his wretched life meaning, as his biological clock ticks down.
But he has no credibility left. The bridge project would create 10,000 jobs, at least for a few years. It seems only fair that as part of our recovery, Matty does his part by employing a few more lawyers.