This time it's Bob Ficano's blood in the water
Published: October 19, 2011
Wintner also told Wisely that "hiring Tim was her [Mullin's] suggestion."
So, was there or was there not a contract? And did Taylor do any actual work, or didn't he?
Adding to the perception that there's a lot of back-scratching going on here was an Oct. 8 story in The Detroit News revealing that Mullin was hired by the airport authority — where four of the seven board members are Ficano appointees — even though, among the leading candidates, she was the only one to have had no experience actually running an airport.
Last week, the News pushed that aspect of the story further along by reporting that one of the members of the airport authority who voted to appoint Mullin as the authority's CEO had made "$442,000 just weeks earlier from a land sale she [Mullin] had helped engineer."
The story went on to reveal that Charlie J. Williams, a former Wayne County deputy executive, worked as a "facilitator and mediator" in a $14 million sale of a parking lot for a new county jail downtown. The deal — which Mullin signed off on as the county's chief development officer — paid him a 3 percent commission.
"Two weeks after the sale was completed on July 14, Williams voted to hire Mullin for the airport job. ... He also was one of the three members of a search committee that recommended her for the job above four finalists with airport management experience."
Williams — who held high-ranking city posts in the Coleman Young era and was appointed to the airport board by Ficano — insisted that there was no quid pro quo involved, and that there was no conflict of interest in the deal, which had the Greektown Casino selling the property to the county.
"I made my money from the casino," Williams told The News. "It's not a conflict of interest."
More questions about Mullin were raised on Oct. 10, when Mike Wilkinson and Christine MacDonald at The News reported that she had been sued three times over allegations of professional misconduct while working as a private attorney.
"The civil suits claim Turkia Mullin breached ethics when she represented both buyers and sellers in the sale of gas stations that were backed by federal funds. Some of the principals in the deals later were indicted or convicted for fraud after taxpayers lost $26 million on failed Small Business Administration loans," the paper reported.
"Mullin wasn't charged and didn't face professional sanctions. But some involved in the deals accused her of wrongdoing in civil court, and one questions why airport officials named her in August to the post that pays $250,000 per year."
In the midst of all this came a story posted on this rag's web site last week. The scoop was a swan song of sorts for MT staff writer Sandra Svoboda, who departed for a job with the federal government days after filing a piece that revealed how dozens of top officials in the Ficano administration received a buyout worth as much as 24 weeks' pay if they retired by April 1 of this year.
"About 40 employees — high-ranking appointees of County Executive Robert Ficano's among them — received up to 24 weeks of their salaried pay in addition to payouts of their unused sick and vacation time when they retired or left earlier this year, " Svoboda reported.
But here's the kicker: "As many as 20 of them have returned to the county on separate contracts, collecting both pensions and wages funded by taxpayers." That tidbit was confirmed by Ficano Chief of Staff Matthew Schenk.
Among the beneficiaries of this was the above-mentioned Timothy Taylor, who received a buyout for retiring early, making him eligible for an $8,800-a-month pension, and then signed a contract one month later that allotted him as much as $117,000 annually.
All this comes at a time when the country faces an accumulated budget deficit of $160 million.
At his press conference last Friday, Ficano announced that two top aides — deputy executive Azzam Elder and corporation counsel Marianne Talon — were being suspended for one month without pay for their roles in the Mullin severance fiasco. And Taylor's contract was canceled.
From where we sit, Big Bob's barbecue carries the distinct whiff of roasting scapegoat.
Will the exec's actions be enough to quell further scrutiny? We hope not. But the Wayne County executive job is one that carries much political power. Evidence of that was found in another story that broke last week in The News.
It seems that state Rep. John Olumba has gone on record saying that "his colleagues tried to strong-arm him into retracting his request that state Attorney General Bill Schuette investigate the severance scandal."
"It leads me to believe there is something that needs to be uncovered," Olumba said at a press conference last week.
Here's some friendly advice, Bobby F.: Don't go tossing that can of shark repellent into the trash just yet.
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