Nothing seems to work properly in Bob Ficano’s Wayne County.
Trusty lieutenants, cushy packages in hand, are fleeing for better jobs — if they aren’t copping to pressuring political patronage or serious corruption charges, witness former Chief Information Officer Tahir Kazmi’s guilty plea today to accepting bribes.
The pension fund for retired county employees boasts one of the worst returns in the country. Credit the absence of an ethics policy and the folly of allowing unsophisticated pension board members make investment decisions that include financing Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Enterprises and an experimental breast cancer test, among other demonstrated winners.
Relations with union leaders are frayed, the product of continuing cutbacks and the hypocrisy of lavishing appointees with the kind of taxpayer-funded sweetheart deals that no one else seems to get, union or non-union, public or private, pretty much everywhere.
The over-arching implication of this public embarrassment is that longsuffering county taxpayers are the equivalent of a governmental ATM — politicians leverage someone else’s money to grease cronies, to mismanage the retirement savings of public employees and to get re-elected.
The cynicism behind it all is almost as stunning as comparative lack of outrage from county residents. In too many cases, public money is being either squandered or funneled into the bank accounts of the lucky few with the message that there’s very little the public can do about it.
How much more of this do we have to take, nothwithstanding the county executive’s declaration that he will not resign? Enough, unfortunately, to probably make things worse, to dig a deeper financial hole devoid of accountability for the morass that is Wayne County government.
Give ‘em this: It ain’t boring.
The federal rollup of county corruption has so far netted three Ficano cronies and implicated others. Incompetent management of the county pension fund is putting taxpayers, natch, on the hook to cover the shortfalls. Twice as many homeowners in Wayne County are “underwater” on their mortgages than the national average, according to a recent survey.
That’s not Ficano’s fault, per se. But the property tax revenue climb down is a marker that calls for precisely the kind disciplined financial management that neither Ficano, nor his staff, nor the county commission are capable of delivering. No wonder the state Treasurer’s office is reviewing the county’s books, a potential precursor to declaration of a financial emergency and all that portends.
If Ficano served as CEO of a company in the private sector he would be out of a job. If trustees for a private pension fund so mismanaged their asset base, securities regulators and perhaps even law enforcement would start asking questions about the trips and goodies offered in exchange for pension investments. But no. In Wayne County, the beat goes on and Ficano soldiers on, vowing repeatedly that he’s done nothing wrong.