DETROIT (WXYZ) - The 7 Action News Investigators were the first to report on the controversial non-profit fund that is now subject to an FBI probe. Now, 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo has uncovered new details about another non-profit with ties to the Ficano Administration.
“I’m not Kwame Kilpatrick,” said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano last year. He was defending his non-profit fund that’s now being investigated by the FBI. The 7 Action News Investigators first exposed questions about the Wayne County Business Development Corporation, also known as EDGE Opportunities, back in 2010.
When we first started investigating the Wayne County Business Development Corporation - county officials initially refused to tell us who donated to the non-profit – and who got paid from the fund.
“Certainly how much money was contributed, what was it used for, those are all issues that should be transparent, because we expect transparency from government,” said Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Henning.
The non-profit’s Executive Director was Turkia Mullin – the former county Economic Development chief, who recently got $200,000 in severance when she voluntarily resigned recently to become CEO of Metro Airport.
Thanks to the severance scandal – we finally know how much money Mullin got from the non-profit in addition to her $200,000 county salary: $75,000.
The 7 Action News Investigators have learned that this isn’t the only county non-profit where Mullin was running the show.
Until the end of August, Turkia Mullin was also the Executive Director of the Wayne County Regional Jobs and Economic Growth Foundation… and there are a lot of new questions about Mullin’s role and relationships with the people on the board of this fund.
According to tax records, that non-profit was set up to “support and encourage economic development.”
A source tells Action News, the county used $360,000 in federal tax credit funds as seed money.
During a 5 year period, the fund brought in $692,557... mostly from “sponsorships” – although it’s not disclosed who those sponsors were.
But in late 2009, a county audit shows the fund had a deficit – which posed a risk to the county.
Tax records show this non-profit paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses… listed in several categories such as travel and something called “China delegation.” Others are simply listed as “contributor expenses” which one expert calls suspicious.
When Catallo asked the accountant who prepared the tax forms about some inconsistencies the we found on this non-profit’s tax records -- that accountant said they are about to file an amendment to correct some of those discrepancies.
What’s also interesting: the people who serve on the board for this non-profit: Renee Pipis Axt and Francine Pegues.
You’ll recall – Pipis Axt served on the board with Mullin for the other non-profit that’s already being investigated by the Feds (the Wayne County Business Development Corporation). Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano appointed Pipis Axt to the Airport Authority Board – which just voted to hire Mullin as CEO.
Pegues works for a company that’s been selected to provide consulting services during the construction of the new Wayne County Jail. And Mullin was on the committee that spearheaded the jail project.
“When you start seeing the same names on the airport authority that votes to hire her as CEO there, the same names that appear on the EDGE board…these are the same names that pop up in county government, or on the periphery of county government all along. It becomes a pretty, too cozy relationship,” said Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak.
Meanwhile, Wayne County Commissioners now say they are being stonewalled by the Ficano administration... That’s why the Commission served Channel 7 with a subpoena. They wanted a copy of the county executive’s October 14th press conference that we streamed live here on wxyz.com… so the commission can have some of Ficano’s statements about Mullin’s severance scandal on the record.
“Some of that internal review was discussed at the news conference, and if we have a specific question they don’t want to answer now, then that answer will be provided in that news conference, and we can take that as part of our testimony,” said Woronchak.
Because 7 Action News made that press conference available to the public, we agreed to comply with the subpoena. We turned the video over to the Wayne County Commission earlier this week.
We did reach out to Wayne County officials to comment on this non-profit, and Mullin’s role with it, but so far they are saying they won’t be able to answer our questions until Friday. We also contacted Renee Pipis Axt for comment – but she has not called us back.
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