With state takeover looming, Wayne County spent $20,000 on Ficano's State of the County address

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Amidst a $175 million deficit and the threat of a state takeover, Wayne County  spent nearly $20,000  for CEO Robert Ficano's annual State of the County address.

The speech, which Ficano makes every year, cost significantly more than those of his counterparts in Oakland and Macomb County. Both governments are in far better financial shape.

The expenses include $1,000 to rent an auditorium in Dearborn,  $7,500 for a speech writer who also organized the event and $11,000 to pay Detroit Public Television to shoot, light and feed back the speech.

When told of the events cost, some Wayne County Commissioners expressed outrage.

"$20,000 could go to a lot better causes than having a dog and pony show," said Commissioner Laura Cox (R-Livonia).

Expenses under $50,000 don't require commission approval, but had Ficano sought it, Cox said she would have voted no.

"I don't see the necessity," she said.

"This is a county that's broke," said Commissioner Ray Basham (D-Taylor). "The pension fund is underfunded, we need more deputies, we need more prosecutors, we need more food safety inspectors, we need more road workers. And $20,000's a step."

Ficano wouldn’t face our questions for this story, but his office did release a statement.  It reads, in part: “County Executives deliver State of the County speeches.  All require production and broadcast expenses in order to communicate with their constituents.”

We checked with the other county CEO’s to see how much they spent. In Macomb, County Executive Mark Hackel’s speech didn’t cost a dime, relying largely on donated event space and volunteers.  In Oakland , their State of the County had about 4 times as many guests as Ficano’s, but cost about half as much.

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

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