ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) - Drama erupted at a special meeting of the Wayne County Airport Authority where the Airport Board voted to terminate CEO Turkia Mullin.
The decision was officially announced in a statement from the Airport Authority Board. The statement reads as follows:
Wayne County Airport Authority has terminated the employment of Chief Executive Officer Turkia Mullin. This action was taken after consultation with Airport Authority Counsel and after considering the information available to the Board. The Board will not discuss any further matters about her contract--which our Legal Counsel will address with her privately.
The Board has appointed Thomas Naughton to serve as the Interim Chief Executive Officer until such time that a permanent Chief Executive Officer is determined. Mr. Naughton has been the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer with the Airport Authority since 2002.
The resolution is effective immediately. Each member of the board had a vote on the resolution. Only two members of the seven member board voted against the resolution. No specific cause was given for her termination as the board mentioned a number of provisions in her contract.
Immediately after firing Mullin, the board appointed Chief Financial Officer Tom Naughton as the interim CEO. The measure passed 6 to 1, with only Bernard Parker voting against the measure.
Naughton has been the CFO at Metro Airport since the Wayne County Airport Authority was created in 2002.
The vote came after both a closed session meeting and a short public meeting during which Mullin did not speak. Her attorney asked the board if they were considering terminating Mullin's employment. The board would not answer his question.
As the meeting progressed, Board member Bernard Parker addressed Mullin's silence saying that he was disappointed "Ms. Mullin has chosen not to speak to us" and that he will support the resolution.
Board member Samuel Nouhan sided with Mullin, saying she was not a distraction and that she was an excellent choice for Airport CEO. He also said that Mullin's termination exposed the airport to millions of dollars in legal cost. Because of that he could not support the motion to terminate her contract.
"She has shown the energy, enthusiasm and effort that we expected when we hired her," Nouhan told fellow board members. "She's achieved remarkable results in a mere 6 to 8 weeks."
Board member Bernard Parker says Mullin was fired 'with cause', meaning she will not be able to collect on what is left of her three-year contract, more than $700,000.
Board members would not go into specifics regarding Mullin was fired, or which provisions of her contract she violated.
Mullin says she will fight to the money.
Earlier in the afternoon the board went behind closed doors to discusses Mullin's fate. Mullin was asked to leave that closed door meeting. It was after emerging from the meeting that the motion to terminate Mullin was introduced in open session.
After being asked to leave the meeting, Mullin sat at the conference table inside a public meeting room at the Westin Hotel with her private attorneys, Raymond Sterling and Jennifer Lord.
Sterling was upset about the closed session and said it was illegal because the board had not specified what they were discussing.
Sterling says the board asked for a closed session based on attorney/client privilege, but that they hadn't give a specific reason. He said the board's attorney "stood bodyguard" and told him and his client that they couldn't come in. Sterling says the board's attorney then said "now leave."
"We think the public has the right to know if they are discussing Turkia's employment," said Sterling. He went on to say Mullin, the media and the public were entitled to an open meeting.
Before his client was fired, Sterling said Mullin wanted "to continue with the airport" and that it was the Airport Board's burden "to show cause for termination." He challenged them by saying that "If there is cause, say it." He also said that Mullin was valuable to the airport.
Sterling contended the Airport Board lured her away from the county , saying she was forthright with her background and that she had the same contract as her predecessor.
The controversy over Turkia Mullin first erupted when the Action News investigators broke the story of Mullin taking a $200,000 payment from Wayne County after voluntarily leaving her job as Wayne County Economic Development Director to take her new position as head of the airport back in August.
Mullin returned the money late last week after intense criticism. But the gesture may have been too late. One member of the airport board, Bernard Parker, was already calling for her ouster before Monday's meeting.
High profile attorney Deborah Gordon says that even if the board wanted to jettison Mullin, they may not have the power to do it without paying out the $750,000 severance, the remainder of her contract. It is not clear if the board has provided