Commission to question Wayne County staff about $200K severance to Turkia Mullin

By John Wisely

Detroit Free Press


Sept. 29–Wayne County commissioners plan to meet Tuesday morning to question members of Robert Ficano’s staff about the controversial $200,000 severance payout to former Chief Economic Development Officer Turkia Mullin. “It doesn’t fit in with the notion of transparency,” Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak, D-Dearborn, said today. “We’re going to ask a lot of questions.”

Woronchak said commissioners didn’t know about the payout to Mullin until they saw media accounts about it. They also didn’t know of a similar $200,000 payment to Mullin’s predecessor, Mulu Birru.

“We’re all going to hear them say why they think the commission shouldn’t have approved this,” Woronchak said. “I would say that a $200,000 lump sum payout to a employee voluntarily leaving goes beyond an internal personnel matter. The Wayne County Commission should have been advised.”

Woronchak said he’s called a meeting of the entire 15-member commission, to be held at the Guardian Building. He wants all commissioners to hear the answers at the same time so everyone is dealing with the same information, he said.

Birru left the county in December 2008. On Thursday morning, he called the Free Press to say he hadn’t received a severance payout. But he retracted his comments later in the day after Ficano’s staffers released a signed settlement agreement, including the $200,000 payout, which was made in January 2009.

He insisted his severance was different, saying he didn’t leave voluntarily like Mullin did.

Woronchak said Ficano’s staff sought commission approval to replace Birru with Mullin in February 2009.

“All we received was a one-paragraph resolution saying they wanted to name her economic development director at a $200,000 salary,” Woronchak said. “It didn’t say anything about severance.”

Woronchak said the resolution was brought to the commissioners for immediate approval, meaning it never went through a committee process.

“It was, in a sense, rushed through,” he said.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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