Ex-Wayne County deputy executive Azzam Elder suing over firing

Elder claims he was wrongfully discharged

DETROIT - A former Wayne County employee has filed a wrongful discharge lawsuit against the county's boss and two commissioners.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger told Local 4 Thursday he was representing Azzam Elder in the lawsuit against Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and county commissioners Gary Woronchak and Bernard Parker.

READ: Azzam Elder lawsuit

Fieger said Elder, the county's former deputy director, filed the lawsuit under the Whistleblower Protection Act. The lawsuit claims Ficano tried to hide more than a dozen severance agreements. The suit said there was a scheme to provide government investigators and others "with false information as to the existence of such severance packages, which included removing the severance agreements from each of the employees personnel files."

The suit seeks 25-million dollars in damages.

Ficano had suspended Elder for 30 days in connection with a $200,000 severance deal for the county's former economic development head, Turkia Mullin.

In an interview with Local 4 in November, Elder said as Fcano's deputy he was simply doing what he was told.

"I didn't do anything inappropriate. That's the honest to God truth," he said.

In response, Ficano released this statement:

"While we have not been officially served with a lawsuit; I am disappointed that Mr. Elder continuously refuses to accept responsibility for his own actions. It's unfortunate that after his voluntary resignation he has chosen to be dishonest about events during his tenure to better serve himself in this suit. I look forward to the facts coming out. In the meantime, I will continue to move the county forward."

Ficano and 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.

The FBI is investigating the deal.

Elder's lawsuit reveals his owne severance deal, which he wrote was to compensate him for giving up pay raises. Although he never collected on the $300,000, the letter was signed by Ficano.

The agreement would have let Elder count the payment as wages in order to boost his pension.

Woronchak has responded by saying, "I briefly reviewed the lawsuit and really can't figure out why I'm named in it. My job is to continue to look for the truth in these matters, and to clean up Wayne County, and this isn't going to distract me from that responsibility."

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