wayne county

One of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano’s top deputies has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.

Tahir Kazmi was Ficano’s former Chief Information Technology Officer. He admitted in court that he took bribes in the form of cash, plane tickets and other perks from a Wayne County contractor. In exchange, Kazmi gave the company preferential treatment on county jobs.

He also admitted to obstructing justice during the FBI investigation into his crimes.

In return for his guilty plea, Kazmi has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation into Wayne County corruption.

Kazmi is one of several former Wayne County employees who face federal indictments for alleged corrupt activities. But he’s the first to plead guilty, and to offer to cooperate with authorities.

Political circles across the state remain stunned by the very public self-destruction of former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, from the white-collar Wayne County suburb of Livonia.

Yet it seems to me that while many people know the basic facts of his decline and fall, most don’t understand the true consequences of what he’s done. I’ll get to that in a moment.

But first consider this. A year ago, McCotter was a man with an essentially safe seat in Congress who had launched a long-shot campaign for President.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano says department heads will have to implement deep cuts.

But department heads are rebelling, and one has already threatened to sue.

In a 2-year budget plan, Ficano says all county departments will have to absorb a 20% budget cut if the Wayne County is to avoid fiscal disaster.

He says property tax revenues have plummeted, and the county faces a $155 million dollar accumulated deficit.

Associated Press

Before giving Wayne County the go-ahead on an unorthodox deficit reduction plan, the state wants peruse the county's books.

According to John Wisely at the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon is taking bids from accounting firms to perform the audit. Auditors would look at discrepancies in spending and budgeting along with the timing of certain transactions.

Officials in Lansing are on the lookout for anything fishy because the plan would involve state money.

More from the Freep:

Last month, the county proposed eliminating its deficit by sending unused state grant money, for things like roads and mental health programs, back to the state. It wants the state to return a similar amount to the county unrestricted, meaning it could be used to eliminate the deficit instead of funding the programs spelled out in the legislation.

Wayne County has a cumulative deficit of $155 million and faces declining revenues in its latest budget cycle.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Now that I’m in my sixties, I find myself forced to confront the sad truth that I am never going to be a concert violinist or play professional sports. So instead, I have decided to devote my life to urging our leaders to exercise common sense.

True, there are days when it does seem that trying to make the Detroit Lions might hold out slightly more chance of success.  But as an idealistic baby boomer, I refuse to give up.

Outgoing Wayne County executive Robert Ficano
Wayne County / YouTube

DETROIT (AP) - Wayne County commissioners have censured executive Robert Ficano, whose office is under an FBI investigation and mired in allegations of corruption.

The commission approved the resolution Thursday on a 14-1 vote. Ficano is elected, and commissioners can't force him out.

Grosse Ile Democrat Joe Palamara sponsored the resolution and says "the power to elect and remove the county executive rests solely with the people."

Federal authorities began investigating county government last summer following reports of a $200,000 severance deal for a Ficano staffer.

Ex-Ficano aide David Edwards pleaded guilty last month to bribery charges involving $13,000 accepted from a private contractor.

Ficano has denied any wrongdoing.

Outgoing Wayne County executive Robert Ficano
Wayne County / YouTube

Wayne County Commissioners voted today to censure County Executive Robert Ficano, but the vote also exposed divisions within the Commission.

The resolution to “censure the Wayne County Chief Executive Officer” has no real teeth, and it doesn’t mention Ficano by name.

That last fact angered County Commissioner Laura Cox, who sponsored the initial censure resolution. She ended up voting against what she called the “watered down” measure.

Cox called that “pathetic.”

“The Commission has no power to censure, by state law. But I guess we also have no power to ask for somebody to resign, which is exactly what my resolution did. So they feel that that was too strong, obviously,” said Cox.

Cox wants the Commission to put a county charter revision on the ballot. It would ask voters to give Commissioners or other elected officials the authority to remove county officials under certain circumstances.

Commissioner Joseph Palamara said the resolution was appropriate, given the Commission’s limited powers.

“To say that, "you should leave right now," that would have no more authority than Donald Trump walking in here under public comment and saying, ‘Bob Ficano, you’re fired,’” said Palamara.

Ficano’s administration has been under an FBI investigation for months. Several former top aides have been indicted on corruption charges, but Ficano has always denied any personal wrongdoing, and waved off suggestions that he resign.

To badly paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, history will little note nor long remember Bob Dole’s presidential campaign sixteen years ago. Dole was the Republican nominee against President Bill Clinton that year.

This was before the sex scandals came to light, and Clinton breezed to reelection. Bob Dole, an authentic war hero with a hilariously caustic sense of humor, ran a bumbling race that didn’t reflect that he was actually a quite capable man. 

DETROIT (AP) - Ex-Detroit and Wayne County financial chief Bella Marshall has died. She was 62.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano says that Marshall died Tuesday morning at her home but didn't give the cause.

Marshall served as Detroit's finance director under longtime Mayor Coleman Young. She later served as Wayne County's chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Marshall was married to the late casino promoter Don Barden but was in the midst of a contentious divorce when he died in May 2011.

Barden made millions with cable TV franchises in Detroit and the suburbs and later owned casinos in Indiana, Las Vegas, Colorado and Mississippi.

He and Marshall had feuded in recent years over Barden's ability to manage his assets.

DETROIT (AP) — A former high-ranking Wayne County official has been indicted on corruption charges in an investigation of kickbacks tied to a health program.

Michael Grundy is accused of enriching himself by having a contractor inflate invoices and pass him the cash. Grundy was an assistant county executive and director of HealthChoice until he was fired last fall.

He's charged with conspiracy, fraud and extortion. His lawyer had no immediate comment Wednesday.

Grundy was placed on leave in October and then fired in November by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.

(Robert Ficano/Wayne County)

Robert Ficano says he won’t let doubts about corruption in county government distract him from his job.

The Wayne County Executive delivered his tenth annual State of the County address Wednesday night.

Some years ago, there was a scandal involving fiscal improprieties at Michigan Public Media, which operates this radio station. When the then-director discovered the suspicious financial practices, he immediately told the University of Michigan about them.

Then, though he was in no way implicated in the wrongdoing, he resigned, saying the irregularities happened under his watch, and therefore he was ultimately responsible for them.

screen grab from WJBK Fox 2

Wayne County Commissioner Laura Cox has publicly said that embattled County Executive Robert Ficano should resign.

Cox, the only Republican on the Wayne County Commission, has been one of Ficano’s most outspoken critics.

Ficano has been under fire for months after numerous revelations about huge severance payments to top aides, and other corruption accusations.

A top aide to Wayne County executive Robert Ficano is facing federal extortion and bribery charges

Tahir Kazmi is Wayne County’s Chief Information Officer.   He’s been in that job since 2008, though he is currently on leave.

Federal prosecutors charged Kazmi this week with pressuring a county vendor to lie to FBI agents investigating possible corruption in Wayne County government.   Kazmi also allegedly demanded cash and expensive trips in return for county contracts.  

Kazmi and another Wayne County employee are charged with obstruction of justice as well. 

 DETROIT (AP) - A Wayne County Circuit judge has ruled that Detroit Metropolitan Airport officials violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act during the hiring of ex-Chief Executive Turkia Mullin.

Judge Robert Colombo on Friday found multiple violations of the state act and issued an injunction against future violations.

Mullin was fired Oct. 31 by a 5-2 vote after board members returned from a closed-door meeting. She is suing the Airport Authority, claiming it violated the act.

She took the airport job after resigning in September as Wayne County's economic development director. She got $200,000 in severance after leaving the county job, but later returned the money after coming under criticism.

More subpoenas issued in Wayne County probe

The FBI has issued more subpoenas in their investigation into Wayne County government. The FBI's investigation was launched last October following an uproar over a $200,000 severance payment given to former Wayne County development director Turkia Mullin.

The Detroit Free Press reports the latest subpoenas are seeking the following information:

- Records for the county's purchase of the Guardian Building, an Art Deco masterpiece that officials spent tens of millions of dollars renovating before moving in 2009.

- Contract and payment documents involving Destination Marketing Group, a Plymouth-based tourism marketing firm that had a county contract to talk to at-risk teens about mental illness.

 -Contracts and e-mails related to the county's dealings with three vendors of Health Choice, the county's health insurance program for small employers and working people.

Snyder says he was bullied after signing anti-bullying bill

After signing the state's first anti-bullying legislation into law yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder reflected on how he was bullied in school. More from the Muskegon Chronicle:

Gov. Rick Snyder is famously “one tough nerd,” but he said Tuesday that wasn't always the case.

“I was a victim of bullying,” Snyder said just after signing into law a plan requiring schools to develop anti-bullying policies, surrounded by families of children who took their lives after being harassed.

“While I didn't experience it to the same degree as these families, I was bullied because I was a nerd. I was beaten up in elementary school and middle school. I was pushed around in high school and even in college.”

Coolant leak cause of Volt battery fires?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Chevy Volt battery fires after some of their test vehicles caught fire weeks after crash tests. Now a source says the Volt's coolant system was likely the cause of these delayed fires.

From the Associated Press:

The liquid solution that cools the Chevrolet Volt's batteries is the likely cause of fires that broke out inside the electric car after government crash tests, a person briefed on the matter said...

The coolant did not catch fire, but crystallized and created an electrical short that apparently sparked the fires, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the findings are not final.

Recently, GM's CEO Daniel Akerson said the company would buy back Volts from any owners who think the cars are unsafe.

DETROIT (AP) - The head of the FBI office in Detroit says agents are busy investigating corruption in Wayne County government. Andrew Arena says agents were looking at the county before an economic development official was given a $200,000 severance for resigning to take a more lucrative job at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. After much criticism, she lost the airport post and agreed to repay the severance.

Metro Airport

The severance scandal surrounding the now-fired CEO of Detroit Metro Airport, Turkia Mullin, has apparently claimed a member of the airport board.

Wayne County Airport Authority chair Renee Axt resigned Monday. She issued the following statement:

The Wayne County Commission’s Auditor General will look into some persistent questions about county contracts and payment practices.

Willie Mayo says the audit will dig into two primary issues. One is how the county’s payroll process works—and whether there are safeguards to prevent some county appointees from getting big payouts.

There’s a wonderful scene in Oliver Stone’s excellent movie Nixon, where the actors playing the president’s two heavies, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, are watching their boss publicly fire an aide as the Watergate scandal begins to unravel.

The cadaverous James Woods, who plays Bob Haldeman, turns to his sidekick. “And John, you do know we‘re next, right?” he says.

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