By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — The latest legal question facing Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is a lawsuit filed by six appointees, including former Taylor Mayor Cameron Priebe.
The lawsuit entered in Wayne County Circuit Court Feb. 17, reportedly claims that Ficano and the County were in breach of contract when severance packages for appointed officers were rescinded in October, 2011. The motion is the latest in a series of benefits-related issues at Wayne County that surfaced after a $200,000 severance was made to former chief development officer Turkia Awada Mullin.
Priebe served as Taylor’s mayor from 1981 to 1997, and again from 2005 until the 2009 election of Jeffrey Lamarand. From 1997 until 2005 he was director of public services for Wayne County, and was appointed Assistant Executive by Ficano after leaving Taylor.
The breach of contract suit includes Priebe, Homeland Security Director James Buford, Department of Public Sevices Director Hassan Saab, Equipment Division Manager Keith Lee, Juvenile Detention Facility Manager Leonard Dixon, and Facilties Management Director Kerreen Conley. Reportedly, the six claim they planned to leave the county last year and take retirement, but remained on staff at Ficano’s request, for which additional compensation would be paid.
In the wake of the revelations about Mullin’s contract, Ficano allegedly broke his agreement with the six appointees. A top Ficano aide, Azzam Elder, previously filed a lawsuit claiming Ficano made a similar promise to him, and that 15 appointees were given written guarantees of a similar deal for early retirement.
The lawsuit joins a rash of litigation filed against Ficano and Wayne County, concurrent with a months-long probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over allegations of kickbacks. Several top administrators and officers have been arraigned on charges ranging from obstruction of justice to extortion.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])