Probe Finds Metro Airport Financial Irregularities Worse Than Expected

ROMULUS — A report by Michigan's auditor general in August found that the management and financial irregularities at Detroit Metro Airport are far worse than even critics expected. Enormous cost overruns were discovered in 23 of the 59 consulting contracts at the airport. One contract was discovered to have gone $43 million over budget. Vehicle supplies cost 379 percent more than originally budgeted; janitorial supply costs jumped 890 percent; and employee fringe benefits increased 3,949 percent beyond what taxpayers had been told they would cost.

Asked about the overruns, airport officials described them as a "fact of life." Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara has called the inquiry a "witch hunt." But documents obtained under threat of a subpoena revealed that the airport's parking garage contract with APCOA/Standard Parking, Inc., had been extended on a month-to-month basis without bids since 1992, in violation of county contracting procedures. And McNamara's brother-in-law, it was discovered, had received several lucrative contracts from the company as well. The company was fired in September for alleged overcharges for shuttle van leases to the tune of $400,000, and its contract awarded to another company.

In the face of continued resistance by airport officials to producing requested documents, the investigation, sponsored by a Joint Legislative Select Committee of the Michigan Legislature, is ongoing.