The Michigan Senate is holding investigations to find out whether corruption has played a part in the way Wayne County manages the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the airport that serves most travelers in southeastern Michigan.

“Being rated as an airport along the lines of Bangladesh or Mexico City is certainly a concern,” said Brandon Stewart, a spokesman for state Sen. Glenn Steil (R-Grand Rapids), chairman of the new committee.

The purpose of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport Review Committee, Stewart said, is to figure out why the airport is plagued with so many problems.

The work of the former Joint Legislative Select Committee on Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, which expired at the end of the last legislative session in December, was transferred to Steil”s Senate committee.

“The committee has hired its own private investigator to assist us into looking into suspicions digging into what I would call favoritism at the airport,” said Sen. Leon Stille (R-Spring Lake), the committee”s vice-chairman. A state report on airport operations accused WCMA management of attempting to stall the investigation.

“The Office of the Auditor General”s efforts to obtain records and testimony necessary to respond to the Joint Legislative Select Committee”s requests for preliminary reviews of various Airport operations have been chronicled with a variety of Airport delaying tactics, which we believe are designed to stall and derail auditors assigned to the Airport project,” Auditor General Thomas McTavish wrote in a letter last month to Senate Majority Leader Dan DeGrow (R-Port Huron).

Among tactics that McTavish cited were “protracted delays in providing records,” “withholding entire files” and an airport practice of having an “airport observer present at any interviews the committee conducted with airport employees or when investigators reviewed airport files.

“I do not consider (these practices) to be consistent with “unrestricted access,”” McTavish wrote to Wayne County Director of Airports Lester Robinson.

Robinson responded with a written statement in which he said the ongoing investigation was not impartial.

“The preliminary reviews conducted thus far have created much innuendo and left too many loose ends dangling,” he said. “None of these reports have been professional audits according to government auditing standards.”

The committee, on which Republicans hold a 3-2 seat majority, was chastised by Michigan Democratic Party spokesman Dennis Denno.

“There is a lot of partisan politics going on,” Denno said, adding that “the reports they are filing have so many vague accusations.”

Denno said that the previous committee “used local newspapers for fact finding.”

He added that Republicans were going out of their way to “attack two very successful and popular Democrats,” specifically Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara and Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, who is a potential candidate for the governor”s office in 2002. Granholm previously represented the county as corporation counsel.

Stille denied those allegations.

“Let”s face it. Jennifer Granholm is no longer associated over there,” Stille said. “I don”t see a linkage.”

He added that the Senate might consider granting the new committee power to subpoena airport officials if “stalling continues.” Granting such power would require a simple majority vote in the Senate.

He also added that a state takeover of the airport, although “not imminent,” was not out of the question, but added that he would not speculate on what the investigation would lead to. “We don”t know how profound the mismanagement is,” Stille said.

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