The wife of Wayne County Executive Warren Evans has resigned following a 7 Action News investigation that raised questions about her hiring.
7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones was the first to expose how Evans' wife, Renata Seals-Evans, was hired for a $60,000 a year county position despite a lack of government experience or a college degree.
Within six months, she was promoted to a full-time position that paid $70,000 and came with benefits. News of Seals-Evans hiring trigger outrage inside Wayne County.
"It’s sort of become like an employment agency for relatives of elected officials in some cases," said County Commissioner Glenn Anderson. "There’s just too much of that."
Anderson spoke with 7 Action News on Monday, before Seals-Evans resigned. He complimented her work educating citizens in danger of falling into foreclosure, saying she did a good job meeting with his constituents. Still, he was concerned about how she was hired even though Wayne County Commissioners play no role in overseeing other department's appointees.
Questions of nepotism have plagued Wayne County for decades, from the days of former County Executive Ed McNamara to Bob Ficanos. Seals-Evans hiring and promotion happening at a time when most county workers and retirees are struggling just to get by. Most county workers haven’t seen a raise in about a decade.
"Employees are not being compensated fairly, retirees are now seeing their costs increase while their retirement and benefits were reduced. It’s not a fair situation," Anderson said.
Retirees like Patrick Innis are feeling the pain every day. He worked for the county for almost 30 years. After he retired, he came down with Parkinson’s; it’s taking its toll. During our short interview, it was hard for him to even talk.
His county retiree healthcare—a promise he counted on—was replaced with a stipend a few years ago; a way to save money for a county that was deep in the red.
"Last week I was filling prescriptions and I paid out of pocket over $1,200," said Innis' wife Jane. "That was just that one visit to the pharmacy."
Innis about what’s still to come. Retiree healthcare is gone…but what could happen to county pensions? Currently, Evans is in a battle with the Wayne County Commission to take control of the county pension board.
"I feel like Evans focus is not on the retirees or the Wayne County workers in general," said Jane Innis. "I think his focus is on what’s going to benefit him, his friends, his family."
Renata Seals-Evans issued her resignation letter Tuesday afternoon:
It is with my sincerest regret that I submit this letter of resignation. After analyzing the effect that my employment (due to my marriage) has on the county as whole, there is only one choice to be made. The mere appearance of being unethical, is not acceptable to me and my standard of living. If we are truly for the people and by the people, then it is important that we are respectful of the wishes of the people.
I am dedicated in my heart to continue to prevent foreclosures, and I now have a better insight to do it within the community. Allow this letter to serve as my commitment to the transparency and to the loyalty that I have for Wayne County and its residents. It is hard to walk away from a job that you love, but I will continue with my due diligence for the many veterans, elderly people, and families that suffer because of lack of awareness of options that are available in Wayne County. What is most important is that Wayne County continues to grow under its elected leadership.
The county has come a long way, and this type of distraction is not indicative of the patterns being set by my husband or for you for that matter. I would like to thank Mr. Hathaway, for having the foresight to hire me when I came to the county while he was Treasurer, and a special thanks to you for having the appreciation of my abilities and allowing me to part of your team, when you became the Treasurer. It is an honor to be the “First Lady of Wayne County”, and I hope that the work that I completed thus far will be the stepping stone for my successor, as there is so much work to do. May God, the overseer of all things, continue to bless the union of my marriage, the county and its residents. Amen
The First Lady of Wayne County Renata C. Seals-Evans
Her husband Wayne County Executive Warren Evans released this statement:
“My wife Renata did the honorable thing by resigning to resolve any appearance of impropriety, even though there wasn’t any impropriety. I did not, at any time, play any role in her hiring. Sometimes, a responsible public leader must remove even the appearance of impropriety, even if it does not actually exist, in order to maintain the public’s confidence in the government he leads.”
Warren C. Evans, Wayne County Executive
Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree released a statement on the resignation
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at Ross.Jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.