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Metro airport board fires Turkia Mullin

Turkia Mullin

The Wayne County Airport Authority has fired Metro Airport CEO Turkia Mullin.

Mullin had a short, controversial tenure. It was marred almost from the get-go by the revelation that she got a $200,000 severance payout to voluntarily leave her prior post as Wayne County economic development director.

That sparked a widening scandal that has consumed Wayne County government ever since and led to more questions about lucrative appointee retirement packages, questionable land deals, and cozy relationships between county officials and contractors. The FBI is investigating.

The special airport board meeting in which Mullin was dismissed was almost as bizarre the events leading up to it.

First, the airport board almost immediately voted to go into closed session, from which Mullin and her lawyer, Ray Sterling, were excluded--an action Sterling called illegal under Michigan's Open Meetings Act (board members say they did so to discuss litigation with their attorney, which is an exception provided for in the OMA. However, they would not say what that litigation was).

When the meeting resumed, Board member Suzanne Hall put forth a resolution to dismiss Mullin based on an ethics clause in her contract that forbids "dishonesty, theft, willful misconduct, breach of fiduciary duty, or unethical business conduct."

When Board member Samuel Nouhan asked a question about the nature of Mullin's alleged misconduct, Hall replied, "My resolution is based on that section [of the contract], and that's all I'm going to say."

Nouhan responded that the resolution was "unbelievably vague, ambiguous, and unfair."

“Turkia Mullin was, and is, an excellent choice for airport CEO," Nouhan said. "She’s done nothing wrong at the airport, and this motion would expose the Wayne County Airport Authority to millions of dollars in potential legal costs, settlements, or judgements.”

After some bickering, the board voted 5-2 to fire Mullin.

When the meeting ended, most board members quickly fled the room. Mullin, who had not spoken during the meeting, read from a prepared statement in which she said she had been wrongfully terminated and professionally compromised.

Mullin also indicated she will seek "legal remedy" for the firing.

If Mullin had been dismissed "without cause," she would have been entitled to 3 years worth of severance pay--more than $700,000. Sterling says they'll seek at least that much money in court or in arbitration.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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