Wayne County Commission votes to censure Robert Ficano

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Wayne County Commission voted to reprimand Robert Ficano today.

But it wasn't easy… with sparks flying over claims of some commissioners not being tough enough on the county executive.

 After an hour and a half of heated debate and amendments to amendments – the Commissioners voted to censure Ficano, whose name wasn't put into the official reprimand at first.

"I feel so strongly about this issue I will not back down.  I will not participate in the good old boys network," said Commissioner Laura Cox (R-Livonia).

Commission Chair Pro Tem Cox says she was furious that her resolution calling on Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano to resign got changed so dramatically behind her back.

Late Wednesday, a new version of the Cox resolution was leaked to the media.  Instead of asking Ficano to step down, the new version censures the Chief Executive Officer of Wayne County.

"They've watered it down, and they don't have his name in it.  So you're censoring someone, and you don't even name him.  So you're saying shame on you, but who the hell knows who it is, it's pathetic," said Cox.

Commissioner Joseph Palamara introduced the amendment to give the CEO an official reprimand.

"This was introduced today so this body could go on record, official record, and say enough is enough, we are doing everything we are allowed to do under the laws of this state, to voice our displeasure. This is no light slap on the wrist, to be censured.  This is unprecedented action," said Palamara.

Ever since the 7 Action News Investigators first exposed the Turkia Mullin severance scandal and the FBI corruption probe into Ficano's administration – the Commissioners have been struggling with how to hold the county executive accountable. 

Under the current charter – the commission has no power to remove the CEO, and both the censure and the resignation request are symbolic.

"The people are angry we don't have the power to do something to effectuate change in this situation, I hear it every single day," said Commissioner Diane Webb (D-Redford Township).

In today's Committee of the Whole meeting, the commission spent an hour and a half debating the resolution, and introduced several possible amendments to the proposal.

"I absolutely support this censure resolution.  I reject any notion that it's pathetic, watered down or good old boys taking care of good old boys.  This is an absolute repudiation by this body to send a message to the CEO that we hold him responsible for what's happened in Wayne County," said Commissioner Chairman Gary Woronchak.

Ultimately, the resolution passed – saying the CEO's ability to effectively lead Wayne County had been severely compromised – but it did not name Robert Ficano as the one being censured.

"Everybody's name that your originally put into the resolution was taken out – what does that mean to you," asked 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo after the vote.

"It means that they're trying to be soft, they're trying to be easy, and they're trying to be nice.  That's not what we're here to do," said Cox.

The Commissioners also voted to start researching a possible amendment to the county charter that would give them the authority to remove elected officials, including the CEO, for cause.  The change to the charter would have to be approved by the voters, and many commissioners said they hoped to get it on the ballot in November.

After the vote, Ficano told reporters he's hoping the county can move forward.

"I take any action by the commission seriously, professionally, and maturely.   And like I said, if we could undo what happened in the past, we would do it. I have apologized for that, I continue to apologize, but we've taken corrective action, and we'll continue to move forward," said Ficano.

About two hours after the vote – the Commission chair released a statement saying that they will name Ficano in the final version of the resolution.

That will be added as another amendment when the full board meets to officially put the censure on the record on June 7 th.

Commissioners Cox and Ilona Varga (D-Lincoln Park) voted against the censure resolution, saying it wasn't tough enough on Ficano.  Cox also removed her name from the resolution.  It is now sponsored by Commissioner Palamara.

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