After 2 years of scandal, Wayne County legal bills top $800,000

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Two years of scandal in Wayne County has been hell for taxpayers, but heaven for lawyers.

Since 2011, when 7 Action News exposed a culture of waste and corruption in the county, taxpayers have paid out more than $803,000 to 10 law firms hired to defend Robert Ficano and his administration. 

The fees could crack seven-figures soon. The county has approved spending up to almost  $1.2 million to defend itself.

Most cases have yet to even go to trial, but have still cost taxpayers plenty.  Former appointee James Wallace says he was fired when he wouldn't do Ficano's political work. Defense lawyers have cost  $230,639 so far.

Azzam Elder, Ficano's former deputy executive, became a plaintiff once he was dismissed for his role in the severance scandal.  In his suit, Elder says Ficano destroyed records and retaliated against him for blowing the whistle.  That case has cost more than $221,000 so far.

Former appointee Taylor Segue filed suit against the county in 2011, saying former Economic Development Chief Turkia Mullin fired him for refusing to illegally divert federal funds. Legal bills to defend the county have topped $81,000.

The county has paid nearly $125,000 to lawyers and a data service company to comply with the FBI's ongoing probe into the county. It's already netted 5 convictions. 

Even when the county wins in the courtroom, it doesn't come cheap. Former appointee Ralph Kinney's whistleblower lawsuit against the county was tossed last year, but not before the county paid out nearly $145,566 to attorneys. 

Contact Investigator Ross Jones at rjones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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