It was 2 p.m., sharp, Wednesday, Oct. 19, and only Local 4 Defender cameras were rolling.
The defenders were there because our sources tipped us off that something very big was going down.
And it was big.
Federal agents, arriving at the offices of the Wayne County executive. They were not there to arrest anyone, not yet, anyway. They were there to make sure they got the mountains of paperwork they want to sift through.
Now, our sources are sharing more secrets. What the the feds are looking for -- evidence of pay-to-play, kickbacks from contractors, bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion.
Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano says he has nothing to hide, and right now my sources tell me federal investigators have no reason to doubt him. There is no evidence at this point that Ficano has done anything wrong. But there will be some serious explaining to do by many Wayne County officials.
Sources say it's a two-pronged investigation. The first looks at pay-to-play, and pressure put on businesses who want lucrative county contracts.
Sources turned over to Defenders a $125 fundraising ticket for a party at Opus One restaurant What's the problem? The event is sponsored by HealthChoice of Michigan. That's Wayne County's own health system. There is also a picture of Robert Ficano. Government is not supposed to be involved in political fundraisers. It's a red flag. The concern: The government endorsement may pressure companies who want to do business with Wayne County HealthChoice to buy tickets.
This week, federal investigators are visiting those doing business with Wayne County HealthChoice, including Robin Cole, head of Detroit-based ProCare Plus, who donated $18,250 to a Ficano political action committee last year. ProCare has a $20 million contract to provide health care services to Wayne County residents.
Sources say federal agents want to know if Cole was pressured to purchase tickets to county events or provide any type of pay-to-play from Wayne County Health Care.
Michael Grundy is the director of Wayne County HealthChoice. Investigators want to know what his role is in giving out county contracts, and what role, if any, he has in fundraising. The feds tell me they could end up looking at contracts county-wide for evidence of kickbacks and pay-for-play
By now you all know Turkia Mullin, the new airport director who was given a parting gift of $200,000 in severance money for switching county jobs. She promised to give it back, but still hasn't. Mullin and suspended Deputy County Executive Azzem Elder are the poster children of the second prong of the federal investigation. Non profit organizations that gives money to them, where does that money go? And do those who give money win county contracts or benefit personally?
Mullin was given a $75,000 bonus from the non profit organization EDGE Opportunities. The non profit started out in this million-dollar mansion in Oakland County where Mullin lived. Who runs this non profit? Turika Mullin is the executive director. The president is Azzam Elder. The other two board members are on the airport board. EDGE Opportunities appears to have given $75,000 to their own executive director, Turika Mullin.
The feds say that doesn't pass the smell test, and now they will look at every company who gives to non profits to see what, if anything, they get in return.
While county spokespeople say it's just an inquiry, those in charge are hiring prominent attorneys for what federal sources say is the beginning of a lengthy investigation.
Remember this case is in its infancy. It will take several months for the federal investigators to follow the money trail. They promise a full, thorough investigation so that when it's complete we have confidence in our elected officials, those they appoint and the companies they do business with.