Wayne County Executive Ficano ordered to give deposition in lawsuit brought by former appointee

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A federal magistrate has ruled that Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano must be deposed in a lawsuit brought by a former Wayne County appointee.

The order was filed in the United States District County for the Eastern District of Michigan late Wednesday.

The lawsuit was brought against Wayne County, Ficano and four other current and former county officials by James Wallace.

Ficano's deposition will be limited to 90 minutes and must be scheduled at the Wayne County Executive's convenience.

In addition to Ficano, Wallace was also granted the right to depose six other witnesses, including Brook Blackwell, Alan Helmkamp, Timothy Taylor, Matthew Schenck, Joann Abdenour and Carla Sledge. 

The court also ruled that the defense must "produce all documents any Defendant sent out to Ficano appointees regarding his campaign, including but not limited to e-mails, letters, mailing, postcards, flyers, invitations to events, text messages, etc., from 2007 to present." However, they are only required to search county computers and not their own computers.

Wallace contends he was fired in January of last year after he pushed back against edicts from his superiors to perform work for Ficano's political campaigns and non-profit organizations on county time.

According to the lawsuit, Wallace was "directed to actively 'volunteer' as a condition of his employment, for the re-elect Ficano campaign and was forced to spend days walking door-to-door handing out campaign literature, stuffing mailers, working the polls during election cycles, walking in parades, and working at phone banks."

Wallace says when he complained to his supervisor that he was being forced to do political work on county time--a violation of Michigan law--he was told it was part of his "regular job duties."

He says he was also required to purchase tickets to Ficano political events.  When he failed to do so one year, he said the cost of the $500 ticket was deducted from what he was owed by the campaign.

The Wayne County Executive's Office issued this response to the ordered deposition late Wednesday: 

"The county executive has always been on the list for depositions for this case. He has nothing to hide and looks forward to giving testimony on the relevant issues. Mr. Wallace was laid off last year in a staff cutback as the County worked to address its financial situation. The 90-minute time limit will ensure the questioning stays focused on the issues of the case." 

Last November, 7 Action News first reported that, according to sources, Ficano officials ran a political machine from county's headquarters, and was directed by Asst. County CEO Nader Fakhouri.

Fakhouri was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In a statement issued at the time the lawsuit was filed, Ficano said he plans to defend the county from the lawsuit and called it an attempt by Wallace to enrich himself.

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