(WXYZ) - Turkia Mullin’s firing comes after a month of controversy about one of Wayne County’s most powerful women. And while Mullin may now be out of a job – she could have much bigger problems on the horizon.
“Fire me if I haven’t earned it!” That’s what Mullin said earlier on when this controversy was brewing.
But ever since Turkia Mullin took over as CEO for Detroit Metro Airport – her credentials and her judgment have been questioned.
She had no experience running airports, but Mullin beat out five other candidates for the Airport CEO job. Four of the candidates did have airport experience. Mullin’s former boss – Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano -- appoints four of the seven Airport Authority Board members who chose Mullin.
And the search company used to find the new airport boss has ties to one of Mullin’s failed county real estate deals – the Pinnacle racetrack.
While many questioned how and why she got the airport job – the biggest public controversy was Mullin’s golden parachute courtesy of the taxpayers.
When Mullin voluntarily resigned as Wayne County Economic Development Director to take the $250,000 a year airport gig – she left with $200,000 in severance.
Here is the exchange between 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo and Mullin about a month ago:
Catallo: “You’re taking $200,000 just to walk away for a better job. How is that fair?"
Mullin: “I negotiated this, it was consistent with what my predecessor paid, was paid…that’s what I’m entitled to based on my negotiation in my contract.”
But there never was a contract. There was just an undated letter on stationery from the county’s former headquarters. At first Ficano’s press secretary said it was from late 2008 or early 2009, when Mullin first took over the Economic Development department. County leaders eventually admitted, it wasn’t written until Mullin resigned – on September 2nd of this year.
“I am absolutely convinced, based on upon my internal review that it was in fact created on September 2nd and signed by the county executive on that day,” said Ficano spokesperson Alan Helmkamp.
And when Catallo asked, “So why was it done on the old letterhead?”
Helmkamp said, “I don’t know.”
Mullin’s ties to a controversial non-profit also has many people asking questions – including the FBI . As the 7 Action News Investigators were the first to report a year ago – Mullin was the Executive Director of the Wayne County Business Development Corporation, also known as EDGE Opportunities. The non-profit is funded by local companies – some of whom also have contracts with Wayne County. And we now know how much Mullin made from those companies who donated:
“I received another $75,000 through the Business Development Corporation,” said Mullin.
Mullin also got paid from another non-profit with ties to the Ficano administration : more than $16,000 from the Wayne County Regional Jobs and Economic Growth Foundation. Mullin recently gave $6,000 of that back.
And take a look at who sits on the board for both funds: Renee Pipis Axt – head of the Airport Authority which hired Mullin in August.
“When you start seeing the same names on the airport authority that votes to hire her as CEO there, the same names 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 Co. Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak.
Mullin’s connections couldn’t save her from the severance scandal. Last week, Ficano -- who once defended her – turned on her, issuing this statement, saying:
Turkia Mullin is very talented and resourceful, but unfortunately the situation she finds herself in has become an obvious distraction that will continue into the foreseeable future. I am disheartened that the promise the board saw in her has diminished.
My vision for Aerotropolis has always been to have a strong leader at the helm. I believe under the current situation this has been compromised. When the Board meets next week they should proceed with what is best for the continued success of the airport and this region.
The FBI has subpoenaed all the records at Wayne County relating to Mullin and the non-profit that she was in charge of. Mullin said she would fully cooperate.
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