Judge rules Airport Authority will not award Turkia Mullin more money

(WXYZ) - There will be no more money from the airport for Turkia Mullin.

A Wayne County judge ruled today that Mullin is not entitled to the extra penalties and attorney fees from her recent arbitration case.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo Jr. formally approved Mullin's arbitration award of $712,328 – but he said Mullin's efforts to get more money from the airport were absolutely "without merit."

"The claims raised in this motion are insignificant," said Judge Colombo Friday morning.

In April, an arbitrator awarded Mullin the back pay plus attorney fees for her wrongful termination claim – but her attorney Ray Sterling argued the arbitrator made two errors, and said Mullin was owed even more.

"There is absolutely no merit to plaintiff's position that would allow this court to modify the arbitrators ruling in this case," said Judge Colombo.

"There were certain parts of the arbitrators opinion that we felt went 90% of the way there, but maybe should have been 100%.  So we were there today to just sort of clean up those loose ends.  And the judge confirmed the 90% and didn't give us the other 10%," said Sterling.

The Airport Authority board fired Mullin from her CEO position in 2011 after the 7 Action News Investigators exposed the $200,000 severance deal she received for voluntarily resigning as Wayne County's Economic Development chief.

"Are you willing to give the $200,000 back," 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo asked Mullin back in September of 2011. 

"I earned it, absolutely not," said Mullin at the time.

Mullin did eventually give the severance back.   Sterling now says the evidence that emerged from her arbitration shows that money was rightfully hers – and he's keeping open the possibility of trying to get the $200,000 back from Wayne County.

"Don't know yet, I'm not saying yes, I'm not saying no.  We wanted to get this all behind us and concluded, and button it down.  And then perhaps look at other avenues," said Sterling.

When asked why they pursued more money from the airport – even though Mullin had already been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars – Sterling says he has no apologies for defending his client's rights.

"When you breach a contract, there's consequences, and we're here to protect everyone's rights, whether it's Turkia Mullin or any other citizen to make sure they get the full relief to which they're entitled, caused by the defendant!  The defendant, the airport is the one who created this mess," said Sterling.

In a written statement, airport spokesman Michael Conway said this about the judge's decision:

"On this first official day of summer, one remaining shadow has lifted. We are pleased with the Judge's ruling and will continue to work openly with our stakeholders to create a bright and prosperous future for Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run Airports."

As for an appeal – Mullin's lawyer says he will review that with his client.

If you have a Wayne County tip for Heather, email her at hcatallo@wxyz.com or call 248-827-4473.

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