DETROIT (WWJ) – Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano delivered his annual State of the County address Wednesday night, beginning by saying he’s sorry for the recent scandals rocking his administration.
Speaking at the county’s headquarters in the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit, Ficano said “I agree with those who have said ‘he should have done better.’” Ficano said that after 30 years of service to Wayne County, first as sheriff and now as executive, “I should have had better oversight, and for letting you down, I apologize.”
The past six months have been filled with turmoil for Ficano’s administration, beginning with the revelation that the county’s former economic development chief was given a $200,000 severance package. The money was returned, but led to an investigation by the FBI.
Ficano has said he’s cooperating with authorities and has fired some top aides, while others retired unexpectedly. Ficano also has said he won’t resign despite a call from a county commissioner asking him to step down.
“Whatever is broken right now in Wayne County, I’m going to fix, and I’m not going to walk away from that. I’m not going to allow the last few months define my 30 years of public service,” he said.
Ficano also said he’s going to make county government more accountable.
“On this last point, I want to be perfectly clear, I understand that we must restore the public’s trust. It’s not enough to be doing the right things, but we must also do them the right way,” he said.
The executive told spectators that his top priority is “generating new jobs and bringing balanced growth to Wayne County.” He said he has installed a new management team that will make a “huge difference” in the way county business is conducted.
“Expect us to put a premium on doing all of this the way the public expects: ethically, transparently and with a reinvigoration and sense of accountability at every level,” he said.
“Despite the headlines,” Ficano said, “Wayne County is still open for business.”
WWJ’s Stephanie Davis was among those in the audience, and she got reaction from other attendees.
County Commissioner Bernard Parker said he appreciated the apology.
“I think that it was good that he started off that way and recognized it and admitted it that he made some mistakes,” said Parker.
Detroit City Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown agreed.
“I was hoping that he would address the recent problems that Wayne County had and own up to it and he did that,” said Brown.
Chairman of the Wayne County Commission Gary Woronchak thought the address was good, but:
“One speech isn’t going to turn everything around but, you know, what else could he have done? I think he did what he could do under these circumstances now and we’ll see if he delivers and turns things around,” said Woronchak.