Wayne County Exec. Ficano wants more cash for legal contracts

County Commissioners split on request

Robert Ficano
Robert Ficano

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. – Wayne Co. Executive Robert Ficano is asking the county commission to foot his administration's legal bills.

The administration has hired attorney Tom Cranmer to answer FBI subpoenas his office has received and Ficano wants to keep that legal team to provide investigators the information they're seeking.

The FBI wants documents, files, contracts and emails as it probes possible corruption within county government.

Ficano is asking commissioners to approve a $350,000 contract to retain the firm to continue it's work representing the administration during the investigation.

Cranmer said he's set up a designated office in the Guardian Building to scan and organize millions of pages of documentation.

The first vote by the commission to approve the money was split.

"I have copies of all the subpoenas, I know exactly what they're looking for, so there is nothing that is being done in the dark here. There is no secrecy. There is no closed meeting request," Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak said.

But Commissioner Laura Cox said she hasn't seen any documentation on what is being investigated.

"I am not in support of it at all. I don't know why we have a criminal lawyer representing the county when we have corporate counsel that's very efficient and I think they could handle it properly," she said.

Ficano's spokesperson says the legal team has a good relationship with the investigators during the scandal and Ficano wants that relationship to continue.

Brooke Blackwell, Ficano's Press Secretary, released the following statement Wednesday morning:

Wayne County is committed to cooperating fully and efficiently with the current federal investigation. The eight subpoenas that have been received by the county to date require that voluminous records and emails be collected from various departments and organized in an appropriate manner for delivery to the federal authorities.

Since his retention approximately six weeks ago, Thomas Cranmer has developed an excellent cooperative working relationship for the county with the U.S. Attorneys office and the FBI. Attorneys from the county's Office of Corporation Counsel and other staff have worked tirelessly on this matter under the supervision of Mr. Cranmer and colleagues from Miller Canfield, who bring a specialized expertise to the supervision of the county's compliance with the subpoenas.

The administration began the contract for under $50,000, as allowed under the county's contract procedures.  An extension of Mr. Cranmer's contract is being brought to the County Commission at this time before services are incurred beyond the limit of the initial contract. Chairman Woronchak made abundantly clear that in the exercise of its fiduciary responsibilities, the commission would not consider a retroactive contract with a past due invoice for services already rendered. The contract modification is being submitted for the commission's review at this time in good faith compliance with the Chairman's requirement in this regard.