It’s a pitched power struggle that’s gone on now for more than a month.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy ordered Wayne County Legislative Auditor General Willie Mayo to keep quiet his audit report on the new Wayne County jail construction project. She threatened him with jail time if he did make it public. The Wayne County Commission and its Audit Committee stood by, jaw agape, wondering how that is possible.
While Mayo is an independent authority, but he is hired and fired by the Wayne County Commission. Worthy is not his boss, really no one is. The two thousand hours of investigation he put into finding out what went wrong with the rusting hulk that went nearly $100 million over budget and had to be scrapped turned up what he viewed as criminal wrongdoing. He brought his findings to Kym Worthy believing there were indictments possible with what he uncovered. Worthy agreed and started a fraud investigation into the jail project after reading Mayo’s report. She feels any public discussion of what is in the report would damage her investigation.
There is a bit of impatience here considering it’s the question on everyone’s mind in Wayne County, what went wrong? The County Commission put its lawyers on the audit report holdup case and they found Mayo’s work product is owned by the County and what’s more they say the state constitution says so as well. County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak and Audit Committee Chair Ray Basham want to know who the prosecutor thinks she is interfering in County government’s operation. After all it was the Commission who put Mayo on the case in the first place.
So, tomorrow they intend to ask the Wayne County Commission Committee of the Whole to pass their resolution that would essentially tell Worthy to put up or shut up. Now, the chairman and Basham were careful NOT to use those words today. But, in the resolution they tell Worthy if she believes she has the power to sidetrack the Commission’s ability to see its own documents, public documents, then she ought to use her legal skills and ask a judge for an injunction holding up the audit report. Make it legal in other words. Otherwise the Commission intends to order Mayo to hand over his report.
There is a bit of a problem here in that the report is technically is not complete. Woronchak told Local Four today he asked Mayo to finish the report this week and have what’s known as a closing conference with the County Executive that makes the report complete and official. We’ll see if that happens considering the Audit Committee has been asking Mayo for the paperwork for several months. There are some other questions about this process. Mayo is technically bound to halt his investigation the minute he finds criminal wrongdoing and hand it over either to the Prosecutor, the Attorney General or even the FBI. This he did not do. Instead he completed his probe and them turned his findings over to Worthy.
At this point we don’t know whether that might have motivated Worthy to threaten Mayo with jail time should he release his findings. But Worthy’s office put out a lengthy statement today explaining how it views this situation:
"At this point we have not received the completed Auditor General’s report. We have indicated to the Commission that once it is received we will take 30 days to review it to determine if a redacted copy can be released. This time period is more than reasonable considering that it has taken many months for the Auditor General to compile the report. It is important that these steps are taken because the report is an investigating record compiled for law enforcement purposes. We must ensure that the release of the report does not undermine the criminal investigation into the jail."
What Worthy did not answer is whether she would do as Woronchak and Basham are asking. Perhaps she is oncwaiting to see how the commission will vote tomorrow.
Part of the reason the Commission is so frustrated by this impasse is the question of what becomes of the new jail construction site. The process of deciding what to do is moving along. Local Four News has learned there are now only two companies left in the running to buy the jail site, Triple Properties which wants to build a soccer stadium and Bedrock which is a Dan Gilbert company. But there remains the question of whether and how much the State of Michigan is willing to contribute to this project as it essentially told Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano he would be moving the whole disaster out to the abandoned Mound Road Correction Facility once it became obvious the county was all but broke and could no longer afford to finish the jail on its own.
The Commission is trying to figure out what a good deal might be, who might have run this whole disaster into a ditch and who might go to jail as a result. Having Mayo’s report would be a leg up on getting answers to those questions. They are not forthcoming and it’s getting frustrating. Whether this ends up in court is now really in Worthy’s court.
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