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Turkia Mullin's lawyer says there was no severance scandal, but his claims don't match records
5:54 PM, Apr 26, 2013
7:52 PM, Apr 26, 2013
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (WXYZ) - The woman at the heart of the Wayne County severance scandal
broke her silence on Friday, saying she feels completely vindicated now that she'll get paid more than $700,000 from the airport.
On Friday, Mullin's lawyer
made some bold statements that don't match the records that 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo has uncovered.
The arbitration judge decided that Turkia Mullin was not dishonest in her efforts to get her job at metro airport.
But instead of just taking a victory lap – her attorney re-hashed the severance scandal from Mullin's final days at Wayne County-- the problem is, he doesn't seem to have all the facts.
Turkia Mullin's name is becoming synonymous with severance once again.
"For more than a year and a half, my life has been put on hold as my professional career has been scrutinized and attacked. The judge's detailed 17 page decision completely vindicates me, restores my reputation as an honest hard working person," said Mullin.
Former airport CEO Turkia Mullin read from a prepared statement Friday.
Mullin is still under investigation by the FBI and refused to answer any questions from reporters.
An arbitration judge just awarded Mullin more than $712,000 – it's the severance she was promised in her contract when she agreed to run Metro Airport.
You'll recall the Airport Authority Board fired Mullin back in 2011 -- after 7 Action News exposed that Robert Ficano had given Mullin a $200,000 golden parachute when she voluntarily resigned her job as Wayne County's economic development chief so she could take the new gig at the airport.
To justify firing her -- some airport board members accused her of being dishonest after we revealed that Mullin's written agreement to get that $200,000 severance was an undated letter – a letter that wasn't written until after Mullin was getting ready to leave the county.
"There is no severance scandal, there never was a severance scandal, the severance scandal dies today," said Mullin's lawyer, Ray Sterling. Sterling now claims that Mullin never saw that undated letter that was put on old county letterhead.
"She did not receive that undated letter – she didn't even know about the undated letter until she heard about it in the media," said Sterling.
But we have an email from former Wayne County Deputy CEO Azzam Elder that was sent to Mullin before she left the county.
Attached to that email is the final version of the now-infamous undated letter.
During a live interview with Catallo in September 2011, Mullin defended her payout saying, "It was part of my contract, part of my agreement."
Now Sterling is insisting that Mullin never tried to say the undated letter was her "contract" – and that she never released it to us.
"She never gave anyone that undated letter," said Sterling.
"Yes she did, when I asked her for her contract, that's what she gave me," said Catallo.
" She did not give it to you – Wayne County gave it to you," said Sterling.
Actually – after we asked Mullin repeatedly for her contract – it was Mullin's PR expert – who was working for her
at the airport – who emailed us the letter.
The bottom line is this: they want to say there's no severance scandal because the arbitration judge said that the undated letter does count as a "contract" because it memorialized an oral agreement.
But this was a "severance scandal" because a government employee got paid $200,000 in taxpayer money from a county that is broke – regardless of whether she had a contract or not.
Also Friday, Sterling did not rule out the possibility of trying to get Mullin's $200,000 back from Wayne County – simply saying "anything's possible."
Mullin's severance from the airport is not taxpayer money. Airport officials have said they are "disappointed" with the arbitrator's decision and "continues to believe the Board took appropriate action in 2011 when it terminated Ms. Mullin for cause."