DETROIT (WXYZ) - When Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano made his first public comments after the 7 Action News Investigators broke the story of Turkia Mullin’s $200,000 severance, most Wayne County Commissioners were very critical of Ficano.
“Oakland County and Macomb County pay less, and pay less without secret deals or bonuses. And they do better,” said Wayne County Commissioner Laura Cox.
“We need to reassure the public trust because that’s what’s been lost here,” said another Wayne County Commissioner, Kevin McNamara.
But many were surprised when Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware, who has been one of Ficano’s biggest critics, came to his defense and even praised him.
“With him coming in and saying mistakes were made and we’re going take measures to correct those mistakes, that was really big of the Wayne County Executive,” said Ware. “I want to thank him.”
At one time, Ware consistently criticized Ficano. In 2010, Ficano donated at least $15,000 to her challenger’s campaign, hoping to unseat her. Ware was outraged, writing Ficano a letter accusing him of practicing "plantation politics" and wanting his "hand-picked Negroes (to) represent Detroit."
But Ware has changed her tune big time since then. And county insiders wonder if this is why: Ficano hired Ware’s husband Jesse Long-Bey as a consultant for his campaign in 2011, paying his company J&J Associates $21,000 in just over six months.
A Ficano campaign aide said Long-Bey did “community outreach” for the campaign.
“It sure gives the appearance that Ficano bought her silence through her husband,”said former Wayne County Auditor General Brendan Dunleavy. He says hiring a commissioner’s spouse creates a clear conflict-of-interest, and puts their objectivity in question.
“I’m appalled Ficano would even offer him a job... Jewel Ware was always criticizing the administration. Now when the administration is – it’s being disclosed, all of these unethical practices, all these illegal practices, Jewel Ware’s not asking a question? And you don’t think that has something to do with her husband’s paycheck? I think it does,” said Dunleavy.
Commissioner Ware told 7 Action News that her husband is a very valuable consultant that a lot of politicians want to hire. She says she is less vocal about Ficano publicly because she has decided to work behind the scenes now. In a statement Ware said, "My voting record speaks for itself. I am a voice for the citizens of Wayne County and will continue to do what is in their best interest. My husband has been a well-respected political consultant for nearly 10 years representing dozens of clients. There is no conflict or lack of oversight that prevents me from serving the taxpayers."
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