The rising cost to defend Wayne County - KMSP-TV

The rising cost to defend Wayne County

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(Credit: WJBK| Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano (Credit: WJBK| Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano finds himself on the defensive as the feds continue to investigate a severance pay scandal. But the county is prepared to pay big money to fight back.

Eight law firms handling issues on a case-by-case basis in the Wayne County severance scandal are charging at least $200 an hour. It's added up and the million dollar tab that is being passed on to taxpayers according to a Detroit News analysis of Bob Ficano's office.

Fox 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton says the Ficano staff has 32 lawyers on board who have handled only a handful of the lawsuits so far.

"I don't know what those 32 attorneys for Wayne County are doing, but they could be working on these cases. It's not unusual for a county or a governmental agency to hire other law firms that have expertise in handling what really amounts to employment issues," Langton said.

According to reports this is the largest bill since the Kwame Kilpatrick text message scandal unfolded. More than a dozen former aides have sued saying they were let go trying to uncover issues while others sue for not getting their severance checks. Ficano's office is fighting these cases calling then frivolous. But why not just settle?

Langton said, "usually if there is a settlement there is some merit, somewhere down the line. And most attorneys want to resolve these cases as opposed to going through the lengthy time and the costly time of going through discovery and the court hearing. Settle the cases, get rid of them which will save the county money in the long run."

A spokesperson for Ficano telling Fox 2 there's a good reason to fight these lawsuits saying many of the employees who are filing suit were at will employees. Many of the lawsuits are won by County.

Meanwhile, Bob Ficano is paying for his own legal fees incurred during the FBI probe surrounding his office. It takes fire to fight fire in this case. "It's just kind of an evil situation here, you have to pay the lawyers to defend these cases and it's going to cost millions of dollars to defend them," Langton said.

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