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Wayne County may pay legal bills for allegedly criminal officials

Wayne County jail case may cost taxpayers

County taxpayers will pay for the defense of officials charged with wrongdoing in the Wayne County jail fiasco.
County taxpayers will pay for the defense of officials charged with wrongdoing in the Wayne County jail fiasco.


DETROIT – Construction has been halted on the Wayne County jail, with the project $91 million over budget, but taxpayers may have to pay a little more for this mess.

Taxpayers will foot the bill for two former county officials on trial for misconduct related to the project.

Former Wayne County Chief Financial Officer Carla Sledge and county lawyer Stephen Collins are charges with two criminal counts of official misconduct and face up to five years in prison if convicted. They'll likely have their legal bills paid for by the county because, according to Executive Bob Ficano, the charges stem from their work for Wayne County.

"They're innocent until proven guilty, but at the same time the indictments did come in and I don't think we ought to foot the bill for any legal fees for them," said Wayne County Commissioner Ilona Varga.

However, Ficano has the authority to sign off on all county contracts of less than $30,000 without commission approval. If the legal bills exceed $30,000, commissioners like Varga will have to approve paying legal bills for Sledge and Collins.

"If they're going to attempt to prosecute folks for criminal wrongdoing, then certainly the victims, the Wayne County taxpayers, shouldn't be funding it," said Commissioner Ray Basham.

Basham also says county ordinance prevents taxpayers for paying legal fees in this kind of criminal case. He plans to ask county attorneys—those not under criminal indictment—to see if any kind of legal help for Sledge and Collins is allowed under county ordinance.