DETROIT (WXYZ) - Before they voted to fire Turkia Mullin, the Wayne County airport board was engaged in some tense talk behind closed doors.
Audio revealed today by union activist Robert Davis sheds light on an October meeting held not long after 7 Action News exposed Mullin’s $200,000 severance. Suddenly, board members who voted to hire Mullin were looking for an excuse to dump her.
"There was supposed to be a wall up between the county and the airport," board member Suzanne Hall said in the meeting.
She complained Mullin was blurring the line between Wayne County and the Airport Authority, like giving retroactive contracts to the county’s economic development arm, Mullin’s old employer.
In the same meeting, Hall nearly blew a gasket when she recounted how Mullin wanted to keep her position on a non-profit board while she was still running the airport.
"When she wanted to continue to operate in those two organizations, one as an executive director and one as a board member, I said to her, 'No.' In fact I said to her, 'Hell no, ' " Hall said.
It’s not clear what board she’s talking about, and Hall didn’t return our call today to clarify, but she may have been talking about the Wayne County Business Development Corporation, a non-profit fund we exposed that paid Mullin a second $75,000 annual salary, courtesy of the business community. It also funded her travel for economic development trips across the globe.
Then-board chairwoman Renee Axt complained that Mullin treated the airport like an extension of her county job, and was concerned to see then county IT Chief Tahir Kazmi on the airport grounds.
"She had Tahir Kazmi, walking around the airport," Axt said. At the time, Kazmi had just been named in an FBI subpoena. Since then, Kazmi has pled guilty to extorting a county vendor..
Still, Mullin had her supporters on the board, like Sam Nouhan.
"She’s done more than any other airport director in North America in six to eight weeks," Nouhan said.
Board member Michael Jackson cautioned everyone not to make a quick decision. He said they should let the feds decide if Mullin crossed the line.
"If anybody’s going to find it and it’s going to come out, it’s going to be the FBI. And they’re going to give us cause," he said.
Mullin's lawyer Ray Sterling said today that his client never pushed through a retroactive contract for economic development; it required approval by the airport board. He said his client did nothing wrong during her short tenure at the airport.
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