Ficano Costs Wayne County Taxpayers More Than $400,000 to Settle Azzam Elder Case

It's a "payday" for Azzam Elder, the former Deputy County Executive will be receiving a large check from Wayne County in a settlement reached today. Elder filed claims against Robert Ficano, Wayne County, Bernard Parker, and current Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woranchak for defamation and other torts.

Nov 19, 2015, 22:01 ET from DailyNewsFast

DETROIT, Nov. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Today's settlement, approved by the Wayne County Commission, confirms that Elder's grievances were valid and credible. DailyNewsFast is responsible for the content of this release.

In 2011 a federal investigation into Wayne County was prompted by what appeared to be Robert Ficano's intentional media leaks that were filled with misinformation. Elder and others in the Ficano administration were often portrayed as the villains. When faced with mounting negative press orchestrated by senior Ficano advisors to deflect attention from their own misdeeds, Ficano forced Elder out of his job. Matters took a turn for the worse after Ficano scapegoated Elder in the fall of 2011. In 2014 Ficano suffered a landslide loss to the current Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.  Sources close to Ficano blame his political demise on Ficano's close advisors Jumana Judeh, and assistant Alan Helmkemp.

Despite the negative media attention that remained on Elder after he was forced out by Ficano, on February 9, 2015, the federal government sent Azzam Elder a letter clearing him of any wrong doing in association with corruption in Wayne County.  The FBI clearance letter came as no surprise to those that know Elder, and the public speculation fueled by the Ficano administration leaks surrounding Elder were formally resolved by way of the clearance letter sent to Elder from the U.S. Attorney's office in Detroit. That paved the way for Elder to proceed with his lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit filed by Elder, Elder resigned after he discovered that Ficano and his aids Alan Helmkemp, and Mathew Schenk were orchestrating a cover up including shredding employment severance documents.  Elder indicates that he was retaliated against for advising Ficano, and other senior advisors within the administration to simply be truthful to the media and the Wayne County Commissioners.

A senior Warren Evans cabinet member who didn't want to be named because of possible confidentiality terms in the settlement said, "Azzam Elder was screwed over by Ficano and we all know it.  He deserves every penny and more."

Wayne County attorney Zenna Elhassan recommended accepting the settlement because of cost if the county were to lose the case at trial, she cautioned that  "an adverse judgment could reach a high six figure," according to a letter from her office which was provided to the Wayne County Commissioners for vote.  The Commission voted to approve the settlement today 14-1.

To those close to Elder, he was gracious to take the settlement, and close this chapter so that Wayne County Executive Warren Evans can focus on addressing the fiscal challenges facing the county including risk of falling under an emergency manager.

Notably, under Azzam Elder's leadership, even during the recent economic recession, Wayne County enjoyed its highest historical ratings ever according to Moody's, Fitch, and the S&P.

Former County Commissioner Keith Williams, who worked with Elder stated, "Azzam was great to work with, he's a very good man. He was always there for my district and for the City of Detroit."

One current County Commissioner who did not want to be identified stated "Under his (Azzam) leadership the County was very well managed.  Since his departure the County's rating has fallen to a junk bond status."

Former Mayor of Taylor, Michigan, Cameron Priebe has known Elder for more than 10 years. He stated that, "The untold story should be how Wayne County fell apart after Azzam Elder left his job as deputy.  Elder had a promising career, everyone knew it. God knows how hard he works, and how effective he was at getting things done.  The taxpayers will never know how costly it was after he was pushed out."

Several lawyers who work closely with Elder in the private sector agree that it comes as no surprise that Elder continues to conduct himself in the manner that allowed him to hold the posts of Assistant Chief Prosecutor of Wayne County, Corporation Counsel, and Deputy Wayne County Executive all before the age of 36.  He was effective on key policy and political issues such as the Cobo Center expansion, the purchase of the historical Guardian Building, and weeding out of political foes by successfully eliminating the district once held by former County Commissioner Bernard Parker.  Even today, he continues to be a highly sought after consultant to many political figures in the region, while maintaining a successful and thriving law practice.

Elder could not be reached for comment.

Prior to release, a message seeking comment on Elder's financial settlement was left for his attorney, Geoffrey Feiger.

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