Stunning new developments in the severance scandal rocking Wayne County.
Sources tell Action News Investigator Heather Catallo that the FBI is looking into the situation in Wayne County that Action News exposed. FBI officials will neither confirm nor deny an investigation – but sources say federal agents are in fact looking into this.
A state representative announced on Thursday that he had met with the FBI because he said he was being pressured to withdraw a letter he wrote to Michigan’s attorney general asking him to investigate.
Catallo has learned the FBI was already looking into this even before that meeting… It’s believed the severance scandal and Ficano’s non-profit business development fund are among the items that may be scrutinized.
“The severance should not have been paid, the bottom line is, it should not have been paid,” said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano at a press conference Friday afternoon.
Ficano announced that Deputy County CEO Azzam Elder and Director of Corporation Counsel Mariann Talon are both suspended for 30 days without pay.
Former County Personnel Director Tim Taylor, who has been working as a contract employee, is now fired.
“At this point, I just think they were sloppy in the way they actually put this together,” said Ficano.
The Action News Investigators broke the story that Turkia Mullin was given a $200,000 severance payout when she voluntarily resigned her job as the county’s economic development chief to become the CEO of Detroit Metro Airport… a job that pays her $250,000 a year.
Critics have questioned not only the taxpayer funded severance payout but how the story from County officials changed throughout the scandal – first saying they had to pay Mullin because she had a contract, then releasing this undated letter that allegedly promised Mullin the money, to eventually admitting Mullin never had a contract.
When the undated letter was released to Action News, a county spokeswoman told us it was written in late 2008 or early 2009. Friday, the story changed again when assist county executive Alan Helmkamp revealed the letter was written on September 2nd of this year when the county realized Mullin had never signed any employment agreement, and they wanted to pay her severance.
“The final draft of the letter was completed by the Deputy County Executive, and as indicated it was prepared on September 2nd of this year,” said Helmkamp.
Ficano told reporters at the press conference that’s the same day he signed it – but he later seemed confused.
“When were you first made aware of the September 2nd letter,” asked Action News Investigator Ross Jones.
“During the time that I was in Asia,” said Ficano.
“So when did you sign it,” asked Catallo.
“I signed it September 2nd,” said Ficano.
“So wouldn’t you have been aware of it then,” asked Catallo.
“I sign a lot of papers,” said Ficano.
Meanwhile, the Deputy County Executive held a clandestine meeting Friday afternoon with the woman at the heart of the severance scandal.
While county leaders were preparing to announce Elder’s suspension… Ficano’s number two man met up with Mullin behind a catering business in Dearborn.
Our undercover cameras were rolling as the two talked inside Elder’s Ford Expedition. Mullin and Elder spoke for 23 minutes, before parting with a long hug. When Mullin left the vehicle, she was visibly upset.
Catallo tried to talk to Azzam Elder.. but he would not answer her questions.
“What role did you play in Ms. Mullin’s severance,” asked Catallo.
You’ll recall last night a state representative announced that he had met with the FBI because he said he was being pressured to withdraw a letter he wrote to Michigan’s attorney general asking him to investigate.
Well, my sources are telling me, the FBI was already looking into this even before that meeting… It’s believed the severance scandal and Ficano’s non-profit fund are among the items that may be scrutinized.
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