Monday, October 31, 2011

Turkia Abbott and Lou Ficano


I have to admit that I have not followed closely the appointment of Turkia Mullin to a directorship of the Wayne County Airport Authority. Her involuntary departure after only two months on the job is, however, interesting.

Ms. Mullin was considered a good public servant in Wayne County, in fact being so valuable that the County paid her $200,000 for leaving, and it is that exit payment that appears to have put the kibosh on her employment at the airport authority--a job for which she has no direct experience. (Oddly, you'd think that a valued employee would be offered $200K for sticking around and not beating the pavement, but this is not apparently how government works in Wayne County.)

What did Ms. Mullin do wrong? Aside from accepting a payment that may or may not have been illegally offered, we do not know. And, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Mullin was intentionally trying to receive an illegal payout. (Hey, I know its an unjustified and truly irrational payout, but does that make it illegal?)

What I find most interesting here is that it is Wayne County that should be heavily scrutinized for offering Ms. Mullin the $200K upon her departure, not necessarily Ms. Mullin who would have been a nutcase to turn down such an offer unless she thought the payment illegal.

But, the illegality of said payment is not so obvious. In fact, her exit payment (as well as some others) is under investigation right now, but it was not Ms. Mullin who wrote herself a check upon leaving, and it was not Ms. Mullin that demanded payment before she left. Ms. Mullin is certainly guilty of acting human when someone in authority and someone that you think is acting legally tries to shove stacks of crisp greenbacks across the table at you. But, to my knowledge, she didn't extort the payments and she didn't attempt to hide them once they were shoved at her by the greasy fingers of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.

Now, don't get to thinking that I think such payments make any sense. Whoever authorized such payments ought to be run out of their jobs on a high-speed rail because they clearly are not being good stewards of the people's money. In fact, I think any person in charge of any government authority that would think such payments justified should also be run out on a rail, after all, its the only way to be sure. Well, that or nuke them from orbit.

But, there is nothing that I can see to this point that makes me believe that Mullin was acting in any way other than human. These government agencies toss around money like feathers of a broken pillow, and what public servant properly desensitized to bundles of wasted cash wouldn't think it proper to accept a few if they were legally offered as thanks?

Ms. Mullin, upon the deserved scrutiny her payment received, returned most of the $200K. She also was put on the defensive by those who began to scrutinize her credentials for the job that she had already been hired for. This too seems like a government screw up (if a screw up at all)--this of the Airport Authority rather than Ms. Mullin. Good grief, if I thought I stood a chance of knocking down $250K running Detroit Metro I'd go for it. It isn't the applicant's fault that the hiring authorities offered Ms. Mullin the job without any previous airport experience.

Of course, Ms. Mullin is now threatening a lawsuit against the airport board and might be due a $750,000 cash settlement as a contract buyout for the job she's held for eight weeks and from which she's just been fired. (By the way, I think I got the wrong major in college.)

I'm certainly not suggesting that Mullin is innocent of all ethical wrongdoing in this saga. But I do find it odd that Robert Ficano is the one whose agency paid Mullin the disputed $200K severance, and that it is the same Robert Ficano whose airport board offered the inexperienced Mullin the airport job, with, I suspect, an outstanding letter of reference signed by none other than Robert Ficano. What's more, it is the same Robert Ficano who is politically behind the removal of Mullin from the airport job his appointed directors specifically hired her away from Ficano's Wayne County to fill.

Mullin might be a crony (and a reasonably good lookin' crony at that,) but it is Ficano who is pulling the strings here and a busy puppet master he is.

To recap, Robert Ficano has now successfully gotten Turkia Mullin removed from the same job he just recently had recommended her for, this after apparently losing faith in her for accepting the same severance check his office offered her for leaving her former job with Ficano, so that she could take the second job, also with Ficano.

Abbott and Costello could make a routine.


CS at Right Michigan points to more muddy water here.

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