The barn door is being shut at the Wayne County offices---and before all the horses are out.
I've been critical of what's been happening at the County under The Little Italian General, Bob Ficano---but then again, who in their right mind hasn't been?
Who in their right mind wouldn't be disgusted by the largesse and hubris that has been flaunted at 500 Griswold, as the administration initially responded with nose thumbing at taxpayers?
Who wouldn't have been disgusted at the quality of "food" that county seniors were being served as Meals on Wheels looked to cut costs, while cronyism and inflated paychecks for do-nothing appointments ran rampant?
Who wouldn't have cast a cross eye at Ficano and his toadies while they asked for union concessions on one hand and greased the palms of other less deserving hands at the same time?
So I wasn't the Lone Ranger in my disgust, and having worked for the County Commission in 2010, the impropriety hit even closer to home, because much of it was stuff I and others tried to spoon feed the media, who weren't biting.
Then along came Turkia Mullin and The Severance Heard 'Round the World, and suddenly the bandwagon of Ficano critics was bursting at the seams.
If it's really true that it's darkest before the dawn, then I'm happy to report that I see a speck of the sunrise over yonder.
The County Commission, which has taken a lot of heat for not knowing of which it is supposed to be checking and balancing, is hard at work at making sure that Ficano and his administration---and indeed, future County Executive administrations---are reined in.
You can look at the Commission with a sour puss all you want, but as I have been told by a Commission insider, it's not as simple as I and others have made it out to be, when it comes to assigning blame for the lack of oversight.
Was the Commission maybe too trusting of past administrations, setting a precedent of misguided trust? Probably. Did the Commission expect to be flat out lied to? Probably not.
I'm told that in the matter of Mullin, the former Economic Development Director for the County, the Commission only knew of one Executive Compensation Plan.
Ficano and Mullin, in happier and less investigative times
Here's a portion of an e-mail sent to me regarding Mullin's deal, sent from someone inside the Commission: "The [Executive Compensation Plan], the one the Commission operates from, is the only one that we knew existed. We had no idea that they had secret contracts giving compensation outside the plan?? How would we know?? The dollars were coming from their own lump some budgets, and they hadn't even been allocated yet. Mullin was the first. Once her deal was exposed we forced repayment and asked them if any other such deals existed and they lied right to our faces, on the record!!!!"
Since Severance-Gate, ordinances have been passed, an ethics policy is in its final stages, and the Commission is continuing to ramp up the pressure on the administration. My insider tells me that, when all is said and done, the County will be "bullet proof."
To wit: the Commission's new Ethics Policy, which has much more bite than the one the Administration is trying to cobble together in order to police itself, includes a third party Ethics Review Panel, referrals of criminal activity to the Prosecutor, and fines for unethical behavior (i.e. failure to disclose inappropriate dealings, acceptance of gifts, etc.).
Yes, there are still some horses that didn't escape the Wayne County Barn. Looks like the County Commission is determined to make sure they don't.
Good for them--and for the County taxpayers.