Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Little Italian General

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

How about, "Fool me over and over"?

Last year I worked for the Wayne County Commission as its press secretary/public information person. For those who don't know, the Commission is the legislative branch of county government---the Congress to the County Executive's President, if you will.

But at least Congress has some degree of a spine.

Many of you might have read of the controversial "severance" check that former Wayne County Director of Development Turkia Mullin received after she left that post to head Metro Airport. Mullin voluntarily left a $200,000 job to take the airport position, which pays $250 K. Not bad.

But upon her leaving, County Executive Bob Ficano handed Mullin a $200,000 check, just for leaving. Quite a parting gift.

The payout was allegedly in line with the terms of Mullin's contract. And, she and Ficano said, it wasn't any different than what her predecessor received when he left as development director.

The smelly "severance" caught the good eye of the Detroit News, which came out with this editorial in Sunday's paper, calling for a review of Ficano's appointees' pay. This was after WXYZ-TV (ch. 7) broke the story, courtesy of bulldog reporter Heather Catallo. I couldn't help but laugh---literally, when I read the News editorial. Just ask my wife.

I laughed because in 2010, while working for the Commission, I all but handed the News and the Detroit Free Press smoking guns of the garish pay of Ficano's appointees, and how many of them are no more than do-nothing cronies.

The newspapers did nothing with the info I provided.

But after WXYZ came out with their story last week, the News felt compelled to chime in on Ficano's generosity when it comes to his appointees.

Ficano's office couldn't even come up with a contract for Mullin despite repeated calls for it, by both the media and the Commission, which must approve all contracts in excess of $50,000.

All that was produced was a one paragraph, undated letter, signed by Ficano, to Mullin. It makes reference to a 12-month severance. It's hardly a contract, by any stretch of the imagination. Mullin didn't even sign it.

The County is about $150 million in debt. It has asked already struggling workers to take anywhere from 10-20 percent pay cuts.

Not only that, but I had proof that some of Ficano's staff received 10 percent pay raises just before accepting a 10 percent cut, thus skirting a pay cut altogether.

You heard me.


The Golden (Parachute) Girl, Turkia Mullin


Yet the newspapers did nothing. Neither did the Commission, really. Which is par for the course.

The "Fool me over and over" sentence at the top of this post is directed at the Commission, by the way.

Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak, in response to Catallo's digging, called for a Committee of the Whole meeting downtown this morning, designed to demand answers from Ficano.

As I suspected he would, Ficano pretty much blew the Commission off, despite pleas from the News in this editorial that appeared today.

Bob read a prepared statement that was laughable.

It read, in part, "I have already launched an internal review of the facts and circumstances that led to this payment. I will put protections in place so that this situation isn't repeated."

BOB!!! There's nothing to launch an internal review ABOUT. You gave Mullin a golden parachute. End of story.

Ficano is speaking as if he's gotta "follow the money," like this is Watergate and he's Bob Woodward, not Bob Ficano.

And as far as "Protections in place"....HA! In other words, "I'll try to control myself next time."

As usual, Ficano served up some slop to the Commission, because he knows he can, because so many of them gobble it up and say, "Please, sir, may I have some more?"

The Wayne County Commission is filled with gutless, principle-less Ficano toadies. So nothing much will come of the Ficano-Mullin thing, especially now that Mullin has agreed to pay the money back.

So what of the News' plea for a good, hard look at the myriad of Ficano appointees who are pulling in $100,000+ in salary doing often phantom jobs? You know, the plea that the paper was unwilling to make when I and others in the Commission's inner circle gift-wrapped the information for them?

Good luck with that. The Wayne County Commission looks the other way so much I'm surprised they don't all have kinks in their necks.

I was asked to leave the Commission in January 2011, though it had nothing to do with job performance. My severance was a "Thanks for everything." At least it didn't cost the taxpayers a dime.

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