Whistleblower lawsuit filed against Flint mayor over donations
FLINT, Mich. (WJBK) - Mayor Karen Weaver has been an outspoken advocate for the people of Flint during the city's water crisis, but she is now facing tough questions about what happened to some of the money sent to aid the city's recovery. The money was supposed to help families impacted by the water crisis, but a former Flint city administrator claims she was fired when she reported Mayor Weaver may be redirecting the charitable cash for her own political gain.
"She was blown away, she was recruited by city of Flint to help save and help resolve the issues," said attorney Katherine Smith Kennedy.
But Kennedy, the attorney for former Flint administrator Natasha Henderson, claims Henderson was wrongfully fired for doing her job - allegedly blowing the whistle on the city's top official.
"She believed that this was a red flag," Kennedy said. "She was not sure it was something illegal that was happening. She did the right thing by reporting it, and was punished for it."
According to a lawsuit filed Monday, on Feb. 9 the mayor's assistant, Maxine Murray, told Henderson that she and a volunteer had been instructed by Weaver to redirect charitable donations from Safe Water/Safe Homes to the Karen About Flint fund. Safe Water/Safe Homes is a fund set up to help families hit hardest by Flint's water crisis; the Karen About Flint fund is believed to be a political action committee or campaign fund set up for Weaver.
"She directed them when donors called, to want to donate to Safe Water/Safe Homes to help with this problem, rather then what they had been doing," Kennedy said.
Henderson told Flint's city attorney about what she learned, following up with emails requesting an investigation, which the lawsuit claims ultimately led to Henderson being fired.
"Confirmed that in an email, a day went by and heard nothing back," Kennedy said. "She emailed him again about how serious this could be and within hours, was summoned by the mayor and terminated."
When Henderson asked why, the lawsuit says Weaver explained the state of Michigan could no longer fund Henderson's salary. Henderson pointed out the state didn't pay her salary, the city did. There was no response and Henderson was escorted out of the building.
FOX 2 contacted Mayor Weaver for her side of the story. Spokesperson Kristin Moore responded with this statement:
"It is the policy of the city of Flint to not respond to allegations made in civil litigation matters. Responses to allegations made in any civil complaint are provided by legal counsel retained by the city of Flint."
FOX 2 looked into the "Karen About Flint" website, where she promises she will manage the "city's finances to the penny." FOX 2 discovered the fund, which lists the Flint city administration building address, is not registered with the state as a PAC or a campaign fund.
Where the money is going or whether the fund is legal is not clear.
Weaver and Flint have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit. As far as a criminal investigation, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton says he was just made aware of the lawsuit today and he will be reviewing it.