(WXYZ) - For the first time in 12 years, Wayne County voters have chosen a new leader. It comes amid countless scandals, a jail controversy and an FBI probe.
Bob Ficano's political career has spanned decades and dominated news headlines for the past several years. Now, one day after losing a bid for re-election, he is agreeing to talk to us with nothing off limits.
First we asked Ficano if he believes he lost the race to former Sheriff and Police Chief Warren Evans because voters lost faith in his integrity. He says absolutely not.
"There's never been any question about that. There's never been any question about that" says Ficano.
Ficano points out he helped keep the Auto Show in Wayne County, kept Cobo Hall alive, worked to develop the Aerotropolis, created thousands of jobs and worked with Washington. But an FBI investigation that stemmed from a sweetheart 6 figure severance deal for former employee Turkia Mullin, has gotten the lion share of media attention.
Ficano says "When they actually looked at it, it was only if you were forcibly separated or fired did you get severance for one year. I called her up and said you have to return it, and she did within 2 weeks."
Money was returned but positive headlines were gone. Then, other issues surfaced. Take the failed jail project, a facility that had to be scrapped for going way over budget.
Ficano maintains that and other budget issues are being fixed.
He says "Deficit elimination plan, that is going to happen. The state approved it and the board of commissioners approved it. The jail is going to get built. We sued them, and with the suit they've had an epiphany and come back and we are going to complete it close to the price we are talking about. It definitely can be completed now at that same sight."
How about corrupt public officials who took bribes and lined their pockets? Some have gone to prison but the FBI investigation remains open. As for betrayal of trust, Ficano says "More than betrayed me they betrayed the taxpayers and the citizens. I'm angry, they impact my reputation by their actions. I have 3500 employees, if somebody does something wrong it ultimately goes to the top. I take responsibility."
Jeffrey Collins, a former U.S. Attorney joined the team as scandals broke. Part of an effort to repair the county's image as staffers fundraising on government time also came into question. But last night's election showed it simply wasn't enough.
Ficano tells us "What I do is look forward, I've been in public office for 32 years and done the best that I can. If there was a problem I tried to handle it right away. I committed 14-16 hours a day to this job, and I didn't spend as much time with my children as I could. If there was a regret it probably would be that."
Ficano won't say where things went wrong but he does talk about the importance of the next 5 months. Perhaps, we won't know if it's a new day till he walks out the door at the end of the year.
Ficano says he's not ruling out the possibility of ever seeking office again. But, he says at this point it's just too early to say.