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"How a severance became a scandal"
Friday, November 4, 2011
How a severance became a scandal
By Christine MacDonald
The Detroit (MI) News
Outrage over Turkia Mullin's $200,000 exit pay has morphed into a monthlong
scandal that has rocked Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano's
administration, prompting an FBI investigation, county commission probe and
the departure of three top executives.
Here's a primer of the controversy:
The payout: Mullin was paid $200,000 as the county's economic development
director. She left Sept. 2 to become CEO of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a
post that pays $250,000 a year.
That month, the county confirmed Mullin received a year's pay - $200,000 -
from taxpayers as a severance. Initially, staffers said she was guaranteed
the money by an old contract and deserved the money for attracting $5.5
billion in investment commitments in two years.
Last month, Ficano acknowledged there was no contract, and an undated letter
on old county letterhead - with an address that was used when Mullin first
took the job - was written the same day she took the airport post. Deputy
county executive Azzam Elder wrote the final draft of the letter, staffers
said in announcing suspensions for Elder and corporation counsel Marianne
Talon. Both resigned Thursday.
The airport search: The seven-member Wayne County Airport Authority is
stacked with allies of Ficano. Mullin had no experience running an airport,
but she was selected above four finalists who did.
A three-person search committee of authority members made about $2 million
from county contracts in the past two years. A firm paid $50,000 to lead the
search, Trustinus LLC of Southfield, is owned by Jack Krasula, a partner in
a failed racetrack in Huron Township that Mullin helped develop with
The FBI investigation: Agents served subpoenas on Wayne County's Guardian
Building on Oct. 19 seeking details of the severance and information about
county vendors and a nonprofit economic development group, Edge
Opportunities, that Mullin once led and paid her a $75,000 bonus.
Kickback claims: Agents in October questioned the owner of Pro Care Health
Plan, a firm with $15 million in county contracts, on claims that assistant
executive Michael Grundy pressured her to make regular payments to an
associate of his. Grundy denies the allegations and was suspended with pay.
Other payouts: Ficano introduced a special severance late last year to allow
some 300 political appointees to receive up to 24 weeks' pay if they left
around election time. Some received more than $50,000, but Ficano suspended
the benefit after The Detroit News reported it.
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