Fleecing Flint? Lawsuit alleges mayor diverted charity donors to her campaign fund

It may not just be the water that’s not right around Flint. Former city administrator Natasha Handerson got canned in a strange closed-door city council meeting in February, and a new lawsuit alleges that the firing took place as retribution for whistleblowing. Henderson’s lawsuit alleges that newly elected mayor Karen Weaver got Henderson fired after she informed the city attorney that Weaver had been redirecting donors to the charitable fund aimed at supporting Flint residents in the water-contamination crisis to her own political fund:

But is this a true whistleblower situation, or an attempt to get some revenge for getting fired? CNN explains further:

In the suit filed Monday, fired administrator Natasha Henderson claims that in February 2016, Flint’s current mayor, Karen Weaver, directed a former city employee and a city volunteer to stop directing potential donors to a charity called Safe Water/Safe Homes. That charity was run by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and had been approved by the city for water-crisis donations.

Instead, the lawsuit claims city employee Maxine Murray was directed by Weaver to begin directing donations to “Karenabout Flint.” According to the lawsuit, Murray came to Henderson “in tears” and in fear of “going to jail.” …

The suit claims that the switch was made without the approval of Flint’s city council or of the receivership transition advisory board, which was set up to help the city transition from being under state financial control.

However, CNN had some trouble locating the fund Henderson specifies in the lawsuit:

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of “Karenabout Flint,” and it does not appear in any state tax registries. “Karen About Flint” was Weaver’s campaign slogan when she ran for mayor in 2015, and her Twitter handle is @karenaboutflint.

Nothing shows up in the corporation registry for “Karenaboutflint” in Michigan’s Secretary of State political committee listings, nor in the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, either. Both searches include dissolved committees and corporations, so it’s not as if the fund has been shut down. If it was registered as a political fund, it had to exist under another name. Otherwise, the options are that Weaver kept the fund private, which would be a serious violation of election and/or tax regulations, or that Henderson is making it up.

However, the manner in which Henderson got cashiered seems strange, too. She had been recruited to the position a year earlier as a take-action administrator for the water-contamination crisis, and was integral to the negotiations that forced the state to cough up $6 million in October to switch the water source back to Detroit, at least according to her attorney. Weaver fired her without permission of the city council, and in an open session the council rejected her dismissal unanimously. Only after going into closed session — which the lawsuit alleges is a violation of the open-meetings law — did the council vote to sustain the dismissal.

At the time, Weaver explained the dismissal as a general house-cleaning in Flint, as she also replaced the police and fire chiefs in order to get a fresh start. That might make sense for city employees who worked in Flint prior to the crisis, but Henderson was brought in because of the crisis. Why target someone who had been part of the solution? Considering that Henderson was under contract, Weaver had to show some cause for the dismissal other than her own desire to move her own people into those positions, or just for a “fresh start.”

Oddly, no one at the time appeared to ask questions about the cause, but we can be sure to find out now. The discovery process should be particularly amusing and/or enlightening in this case. Something’s odd in Flint, and it’s not just the water.