DETROIT (WXYZ) - When we last saw ex-Wayne County Deputy CEO Azzam Elder, he was driving away from our cameras and questions about his role in executing Turkia Mullin’s secret $200,000 severance. Riding shotgun in his county SUV was a soon-to-be felon, his friend Tahir Kazmi, who would later plead guilty to bribery.
Elder was broomed out of Wayne County shortly after dodging us, and his name quickly surfaced in FBI subpoenas. He has never been charged.
While he was Bob Ficano’s right hand man, Elder had his fingerprints on some of the county’s biggest blunders, like the almost $400 million jail debacle, the failed Pinnacle Race Track and those sweetheart pension deals that allowed top brass like him to collect huge pensions starting at any age.
But on Tuesday night, our cameras found Elder in a place you wouldn’t expect to see a man mired in an FBI probe: in the audience of CEO candidate Warren Evans' victory party. Evans won last week's Democratic primary in a landslide, and in his victory speech, he took more than a few shots at the administration Elder helped run.
"I got in this race because I was disgusted the way Wayne County was run," Evans told supporters. "I knew Wayne County citizens deserve better.
Signs of a comeback?
Elder’s presence last Tuesday led many to wonder if it was part of a larger strategy to get back into county government. When a WWJ-AM reporter asked Evans that night if there might be room for Elder on his team, he didn’t say no.
"I’m not considering anybody yet, we’re not at that point," Evans said. "But if you’re asking if his skills and those things are sufficient to be a member? Sure."
Evans' comments went straight to the top of the Guardian Building where, sources confirm, many in Bob Ficano’s office are wondering if Elder could be on his way back up. They're not alone.
"I was surprised, I did not know he was doing anything in support of Warren Evans," said former longtime Wayne County Commissioner Bernard Parker, one of Elder’s biggest critics.
"I really think Warren Evans has enough qualified people that he can pull, that he wouldn’t have to go back and pull someone who has a tainted history," Parker said. "He made some major mistakes, we’re still paying for now."
Thanks, but no thanks
Tonight, it would seem Evans’ agrees. A statement from spokeswoman Darci McConnell reads, in part: “If Warren is successful in November, he has absolutely no plans whatsoever to hire Mr. Elder.” She said he attended the party because his name was on a list of more than 20,000 invitations sent to likely Democratic voters.
McConnell says they didn’t want Elder's support and wouldn’t even take his money. The campaign returned all checks that bore Elder’s last name. She insisted Elder played no role in drumming up donations for the campaign.
7 Action News tried repeatedly to reach Elder through family members, friends and others, but were not successful.
Elder is currently suing Ficano, Bernard Parker and the county for wrongful discharge.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.