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War of words escalates between Worthy, Ficano

Kym Worthy (file photo).

The war of words between Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and County Executive Robert Ficano is intensifying.

Worthy held a press conference Wednesday to blast Ficano. She spoke in front of a televised slideshow with media clips detailing the Ficano administration’s ongoing corruption issues.

Worthy says a combination of budget cuts and early retirement incentives has left her office down 52 prosecutors since the fall. Her office took a $6 million cut in the budget approved by Ficano and the Wayne County Commission last fall.

30 prosecutors were laid off last week. As a result, prosecutors haven’t been covering most of the county’s misdemeanor docket this week.

Worthy says she was already running with minimal staffing before, so this is unavoidable—and Ficano needs to re-allocate money from other parts of the budget.

“Economic development for a county is nice,” Worthy said of the county’s $2 million-plus allocation for that department.  “It’s nice to have in good times, but it’s not mandated. You have to fund public safety first.”

And Worthy says warrant requests are piling up, too. “So every day is a game of triage, where we’re trying to figure out which ones seem to be the most dangerous of people, and get them issued first.”

Worthy is suing Ficano over the issue, saying she can’t fulfill her state-mandated duties with her current budget.

She also notes that she and Ficano had a Memorandum of Understanding from 2010, where the two sides agreed on Worthy’s budget for a period of three years.

She says that if the cuts stay in place, things could worse and felony prosecutions could start suffering, too.

Ficano has countered that the cuts were necessary to trim Wayne County’s roughly $190 million deficit, and Worthy knew these cuts were coming.

“To us, it’s just numbers and facts,” Ficano said at his own news conference later on Wednesday.

His office has also suggested that Worthy is using scare tactics and refusing to compromise.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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