Commissioners unanimously vote down Ficano's contract request

Wayne Co. Exec had asked for $350K for legal bills

Wayne County commissioners
Wayne County commissioners

DETROIT – Wayne County commissioners Thursday morning voted unanimously to deny a request by the county's executive for more money to pay legal bills.

Executive Robert Ficano had asked the commission to approve a taxpayer-funded $350,000 contract to retain a firm to continue it's work on fulfilling requests from the FBI in connection with possible corruption investigation within county government.

The FBI has issued eight subpoenas for millions of documents, files, contracts and emails.

Ficano and former county economic development director Turkia Mullin have been under fire since news broke in September that Mullin was given a $200,000 severance when she left her position with the county to become CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority.

Mullin later agreed to repay it and gave the county a check for the after-tax amount of $135,900. Mullin has since been fired from her position with the airport authority.

The county and the FBI are investigating the deal.

The first vote by the commission to approve the money had been split.

Commissioner Laura Cox said she feels in the dark about what is really being investigated.

"I want to hear who initiated the three documents for the severance payment. I want to know who authorized the payment. There are many questions that were not answered under the "cloak" of the secrecy of the Grand Jury subpoena," she said.

Commission chair Gary Woronchuk said he voted against the contract because the commission stands to represent its residents.

"The initial reaction from the people that I represent has been that they do not approve of this contract," he said.

Commissioner Joseph Palamara echoed Woronchuk's sentiment.

"Out votes are supposed to reflect the will of the people. I believe when the votes are cast today on this matter, you will see the will of the people represented on that voting board," he said. Ficano's spokesperson had said the legal team has a good relationship with the investigators and the relationship should be continued.

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.