A confederacy of something: Wayne County Commission censures Bob Ficano
The Wayne County Commission today voted in committee of the whole to censure County Executive Bob Ficano. They also set into motion a process that will likely allow county voters the opportunity to amend the charter to give the Commission powers remove county officials.
That all seems simple and reasonable enough, but alas, today’s session was anything but simple and reasonable.
How many legislative actions does it take the Commission to reprimand Ficano? The answer, if my math is correct, is nine. That’s how many motions, amendments, amendments to amendments and friendly amendments were offered this morning as the Commission voted to express its distaste with the beleaguered Ficano Administration.
I took a picture of the chart I sketched during the meeting, in case it helps you follow along.
The morning started with Commissioner Laura Cox offering a motion formally requesting Ficano’s resignation. The body has no power to remove the executive, so a formal request is as much official pressure as they can put on Ficano.
Commissioner Joseph Palamara immediately offered an amendment to substitute the request for resignation with a formal censure.
This did not meet Cox’s approval. She said she believes any motion must include a call for resignation. At one point she said the censure option amounted to a continuation of “good ol’ boy” politics.
She did offer her own amendment to the Palamara amendment that stated the Commission would ask for Ficano’s resignation if another county employee was implicated in the ever-unfolding scandal surrounding.
Commissioner Diane Webb attempted offer a friendly amendment to Cox’s amendment to Palamara’s amendment to Cox’s motion (follow that?) to tighten up the language, essentially saying Ficano should go if he is indicted. Cox said no and Commissioner Ray Basham disturbed his own amendment that would do the same thing, but he didn’t actually introduce it so the Commission never considered it.
Are you getting all of this? Let’s take a deep breath and get our bearings before moving on. Remember, this is supposed to be about the Commission saying Ficano has done wrong, which pretty much everyone agrees he has.
Cox’s amendment to the amendment was ultimately rejected because, as Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak put it, someone else is bound to be implicated in something shady. The amended amendment would be essentially the same as the initial motion, he argued. The FBI is snooping around and, come on now, this is Wayne County after all.
With that out of the way, discussion returned to the Palamara amendment and Commissioner Bernard Parker offered an amendment to the Palamara amendment to add into motion a process to for the ballot proposal.
Everyone agreed that such a process would be a good idea, and after some discussion about the technical details of going forward this it, Commissioner Irma Clark-Coleman proposed a friendly amendment that changed Parker’s wording from the Commission “will” present a proposal to voters to the Commission “may” present a proposal to voters.
Parker conceded to the revision, but Commissioner Ilona Varga objected because she said the “will” language was stronger. Commissioner Kevin McNamara said there was effectively no difference between “will” or “may” language because any ballot proposal would require another formal Commission vote. A couple others sided with Varga, but Woronchak said Parker agreed to the friendly amendment so, you know, the end.
The Commission then approved the Parker amendment to the Palamara amendment and began discussion (finally) on the now-amended amendment to Laura Cox’s initial motion. Remember Laura Cox? This all started with a motion from Laura Cox.
Commissioner Jewel Ware objected to the amendment’s verbiage because it referred to Ficano and others, including Turkia Mullins and Azzam Elder, by titles rather than by name. The “County Executive” mentioned could be viewed as Ficano or misconstrued as referring to former Executive Ed McNamara, she said.
Palamara answered that issue by saying the language provides clear context as to who it is talking about such as dates in office, etc. He also rejected Ware’s offer of a friendly amendment to add the names.
Ware, and this is the good part, complained that when the Commission censured her for various shenanigans, the resolution clearly mentioned her name. This is simply not fair, she was essentially saying.
Anyway, then Basham called the question prematurely before Cox had a chance to speak on the Palamara amendment so that motion for a vote was rejected. Cox said her piece and then the amendment passed.
Cox, at this point unhappy with the modified version of her amendment, withdrew her name from it and the Cox motion became the Palamara motion. It was, after nearly 90 minutes of discussion approved with only
one two no votes—from Varga and Cox.
One might be tempted to criticize Cox for her no vote, as a censure has essentially the same weight as the request for resignation. However, if that’s the case, then one must also criticize Palamara and others for insisting on censure rather than the resignation request.
Both are essentially strongly worded letters from the legislative branch to the executive branch. And, while a legislative statement of condemnation is important, neither can force Ficano to do anything. That so much hot air was expelled to craft a motion stating the obvious—that Bob Ficano has become a liability to Wayne County—just seems silly.
Jonathan Swift once said “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” He obviously never visited Wayne County. Our local confederacies clearly don’t require Mensa membership to align against you.