The Little Italian General, Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano, has offered up some lambs for sacrifice in the Turkia Mullin severance scandal, but this time he's finding that the county natives' appetite is a tad more voracious than what he's able to offer them.
Ficano suspended for 30 days, without pay, his top deputy, Azzam Elder, and lead attorney Marianne Talon. Ficano also fired former Human Resources Director Tim Taylor, who retired in April but who had been doing consulting work since.
In the past, that might have been enough to quell the rancor and get everybody back to their busy days. It might have been the equivalent of the cops yelling, "Nothing to see here!"
Not this time.
Severance-Gate is taking on a life of its own. The newspapers, usually very kind to the County Executive, are suddenly chewing on Ficano like a dog on a rawhide. Now even the residents are getting into the act.
On Monday, several dozen of them protested outside the Guardian Building downtown, which houses County headquarters. They held signs and demanded Ficano's resignation.
It's not enough, this time, for Ficano to blame others for his misdeeds. The rug he is trying to sweep this under is tacked down.
Why, even the "K" word has been bandied about.
“We went through the whole sage of corruption with Kwame Kilpatrick and now we’re thrust into a whole new saga of corruption with Ficano,” Sandra Hines, 57, of Detroit, who led the protest, told the Detroit Free Press. “He needs to step down.”
Yes, that "K" word---or words, rather.
It's going to get worse for the Little Italian General before it gets better.
This is because the FBI is set to get their inquisitive mitts on Severance-Gate.
The Attorney General's office announced on Tuesday afternoon that the FBI (no less) will take over the investigation of the curiously generous ways Ficano's appointees are compensated in Wayne County.
Severance-Gate's tentacles have even reached Lansing.
The decision to have the FBI investigate came after a hearing before the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics committee, which delayed a vote on a request from state Rep. John Olumba, D-Detroit, to have the AG’s office directly investigate Wayne County.
Olumba told reporters that his zeal was challenged by Ficano crony Michael Grundy, who functions as a sort of county whip.
Grundy, according to Olumba, told the legislator that he was "in over his head," and that Olumba ought to consider dropping the entire matter. Grundy denies all that.
Again, in the past, that might have worked.
Ficano trying to explain himself at a recent press conference
But why this, and why now? Why has this particular incident drawn so much ire---from the press to the general public, to certain state lawmakers?
Back to the "K" word, for one explanation.
This town was Kwame weary for quite some time. And because of that, it was also not in the mood to hear of malfeasance from any elected official. There was an unspoken moratorium, it seemed, on going after the political crooks.
That moratorium has been lifted, and in grandiose fashion.
Folks want Ficano's blood---mainly because they feel strongly that Elder, Talon and Taylor are small fish. Or, worse for the Little Italian General, they feel that Ficano is solely responsible for Mullin's ostentatious payout to begin with.
And they would be right.
Does anyone really think that Ficano was betrayed by Elder, Talon and Taylor, as County Commissioner Ilona Varga intimated recently?
It's funny how our leaders always seem to get detached from their duties when it's most convenient.
Ficano is pretending that he was just a clueless boss whose underlings pulled off twisted feats of derring do behind his back.
Then he stuck their heads on sticks and tried to declare Severance-Gate dead.
Not this time.