Wayne Commissioner Laura Cox
Calls for Full Financial Transparency
“I'm an outspoken advocate of transparency,” announced a courageous Wayne County commissioner Laura Cox speaking to the June 19 Eastside Republican Club Forum.
“Transparency is not a county priority,” Cox said in her remarks to the Republican group at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.
First elected in 2004 and since reelected three times, Cox represents residents of District 10, located in western Wayne County, including Livonia, Plymouth, and Northville.
“My number one goal has been to ensure that your tax dollars are never lost to waste, fraud or abuse,” she said.
Wants Public Database
Her push is for availability of data in “real time,” answering the taxpayer's question, “How are they spending my money?”
She advocates a “searchable” county financial database that answers other questions such as, “What are employee job descriptions?” and “What is the pay?”
Lack of current data of this sort, she said, is “absolutely ridiculous in this day!”
“My transparency initiative wasn't successful and was halted by the administration.”
She asked, “If the state government can be transparent, why can't the county be transparent?”
“I believe that if we had our checkbook online for anyone to scrutinize, Bob Ficano would never have made that secret severance payment,” she said.
“They work in the dark! That wouldn't happen if we were transparent.”
As reported in the news media, the county's financial transactions have drawn the attention of law enforcement and there may be more to come.
“It is my belief that our federal government is a long way from concluding its investigation,” she said.
Sadly, she said, “Good quality employees are resigning because they don't want to be associated with Wayne County.”
These are all reasons the county “cannot move forward with Bob Ficano in place,” she said.
“Four months ago I called on Mr. Ficano to resign in the wake of all this turmoil.”
Cox, the lone Republican on the commission related, “Let's break this down: 14 Democrats, one Republican trying to figure out a middle ground on probably the most powerful Democrat in the state of Michigan.”
As a result, the recent censure motion was watered down to make some commissioners “comfortable.” She said it's not enough “to just slap him on the wrist with a censure.”
Her objective was a call for resignation, knowing that with or without the votes, the Wayne County Commission does not have the authority to remove a county executive.
“My goal is to get a Wayne County Charter amendment out to the voters that would give the commission the authority to remove the county executive,” Cox said.
According to Cox, recent polling is revealing. It indicates 71% of Democrats statewide think Bob Ficano should resign because he is a “drag” on the Obama ticket.
Ficano's deficit elimination plan has been sent to the State Treasurer. What is noteworthy is that the state announced appointment of an outside firm to evaluate the county plan for “reasonableness.”
She explained, “This type of review has never happened before, which tells me that this is a radical plan.”
One controversial provision of the county's plan, she said, proposes the state return to the county for debt elimination any appropriated money unspent by the county for its intended purpose.
Cox voted against adopting the plan because it permits converting restricted funds such as those allocated for mental health to a different purpose. “I believe that is wrong,” she said.
New Tax for Art Institute
Regarding the proposed metro Art Institute millage question now set to appear at the bottom of the August 7 primary election ballot, Cox said, “It is our responsibility to put matters such as this before the largest number of voters possible.”
Explaining, “That's why I opposed an August vote on the millage proposal, not on its merits or the issues, but because of the timing.”
She noted that Wayne County voter participation in a primary election is typically about 16%, whereas during a November General Election participation averages a much higher 52%.
Despite opposition by Cox, the Wayne County Commission voted to authorize collection of the new millage if all the counties involved approve it in August.
Asked about the failure of congressman Thad McCotter to qualify for the August Republican primary ballot, she commented, “It's a sad situation.”
After he was elected to congress in 2004, Cox replaced McCotter on the Wayne County Commission. “I sit in his seat,” she said.
Role on the Commission
During her current term on the commission, her colleagues unanimously selected Cox, a Republican, as vice chair pro tempore. She also serves as a member of these committees: Ways and Means, Government Operations, Public Services, and Economic Development.
Her efforts on behalf of Michigan citizens include 13 year's service as a U.S. Customs agent, working to protect Michigan's borders, safeguarding its communities, and keeping drugs off its streets.
As a community activist, Cox has volunteered as coach for her children's YMCA soccer teams, the St. Edith School and Parish, and Ladywood High School. She was also an advisor for MSU's Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, seeking to help young women develop leadership and community skills.
Through her internship program, Cox has mentored high school and college women, while she is also involved in mentoring through Girls State and the Student Statesmanship Institute.
She is a lifelong Michigan resident, and received both a degree in criminal justice and a master's in criminal justice research and planning from Michigan State University. Cox and her husband Mike have four children and two grandchildren and reside in Livonia.
The Eastside Republican Club Forum is normally held on the third Tuesday of the month from September through June. Admission is free and the public is always welcome.
For more information about the Eastside Republican Club and its meetings, contact chairman Jenny Nolan at 881-5191.