A new lawsuit has accused Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint, Michigan, of diverting donations meant to help locals impacted by the water crisis into her own personal campaign fund.
Former Flint city administrator Natasha Henderson filed the suit May 9, alleging that Mayor Weaver and the city had committed a breach of contract, violated the First Amendment and wrongfully terminated her under the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act.
Flint has been in crisis since revelations that the city’s water supply had been poisoned by lead leeched from outdated pipes.
Henderson alleges that Weaver had told employees to direct donations to her own campaign fund, “Karen About Flint,” instead of the charity Safe Water/Same Homes.
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The lawsuit asserts that Henderson had been approached by city employee Maxine Murray, who was visibly distressed and concerned that she could go to jail if she followed Weaver’s orders.
Katherine Smith Kennedy, Henderson’s lawyer, has asserted that when the city administrator looked into the political action committee (PAC), she discovered that it had not been approved by the city council.
“A red flag went off when it was an unrecognizable fund,” Kennedy told the Detroit Free Press. “She did the right thing. She reported the matter to the city attorney. And for doing the right thing, she was punished. She was fired.”
The lawsuit alleges that Henderson took her findings to the city’s chief legal counsel Feb. 9. The lawyer had written to her through email that he would advise her later that day, but he never followed up.
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Henderson asserts that three days after this exchange, she was called into Weaver’s office and fired, told that the state could no longer fund her salary. When she countered that the city paid her salary, not the state, she was given no response.
Weaver gained official approval to fire Henderson during a meeting with the Flint City Council on March 14. The lawsuit alleges that the mayor “disparaged and defamed” Henderson to the council.
The “Karen About Flint” official website lists the Flint city administration building as its address but is not registered with Michigan as either a PAC or a campaign fund. It is unclear whether or not the fund is even legitmate, according to CNN.
Kennedy asserts that her client was a capable and dedicated public servant who was wrongfully terminated because she could potentially expose Weaver’s campaign fund.
“It was not until this report that there was any discussion of being fired,” Kennedy told CNN. “My client was brought in to help the City of Flint. She did a very good job in that regard. She did the right thing here to report this red flag, and she was punished for it.”
Mayor Weaver was elected in November 2015. In response to the lawsuit, she released an email statement saying, “It is the policy of the City of Flint to not respond to allegations made in civil litigation matters.”