Every time the Flint, Mich., water crisis seems to have finally hit rock bottom, a new development tosses that assumption out the window. A lawsuit filed this week claims Flint city administrator Natasha Henderson was fired by Mayor Karen Weaver unjustly, but why?
According to Henderson's lawyer, her dismissal came after becoming aware of allegations that Mayor Weaver had been instructing her staff to redirect donor funds to the mayor's PAC -- not the actual campaign aimed at helping Flint families.
The suit asserts City Administrator Natasha Henderson was approached by a city employee "in tears" with fears of going to jail. She told Henderson that Weaver had specifically ordered her and a volunteer to show would-be donors, step by step, how to contribute to the "Karenabout Flint" fund, rather than the official Safe Water/Safe Homes charity.
Henderson didn't recognize the innocuously named "Karenabout Flint," an immediate red flag. Disturbed by these claims, she sought to open an investigation into Mayor Weaver's potential corruption. Henderson emailed Flint's legal council, requesting an investigation and the guarantee that the employee who had made these allegations would not face retaliation.
"I will take prompt action and advise you later today." This was, much to her disappointment, the first and last Henderson heard from Flint's lawyer on the matter. What came next, however, truly surprised Henderson.
Just three days after emailing Flint's legal council, she was called into Weaver's office and abruptly dismissed. When asked why she was being fired, Weaver claimed the State of Michigan could no longer afford Henderson's salary -- a patently untrue assertion, because, as Henderson pointed out, Flint pays her salary. Without providing any other reason, Mayor Weaver fired Henderson.
Henderson and her attorney first sought to resolve the matter with the city and, initially, much of the city council supported her. That changed after Mayor Weaver held a closed door meeting with the Flint City Council during which Henderson was allegedly "disparaged and defamed." After this, they voted 9-0 to back Henderson's dismissal.
Now Henderson's taking her fight to the courts. Her lawsuit argues that not only was Henderson's contract with the city breached, but that her First Amendment rights and the guarantees provided by the Michigan Whistle-blower Protection Act were violated. The lawsuit also says the Flint City Council was not fully aware of Henderson's whistleblower claims when they voted to uphold her firing.
While this would certainly be regarded as an incredible case of bold corruption in any other city, the fact that it emerged from Flint seems especially outrageous. However, it shouldn't be much of a surprise.
One might be inclined to think that with the months of intense scrutiny of the water crisis in Flint, shady politicians and leaders might be inclined to try to clean up their acts (or at least attempt to be less overt about it) -- but clearly, that's not so.
That's because, tragically, Flint has become a magnet for these types of individuals and such blase behavior. The victimization and injustice that has (and continues) to befall Flint's citizens is so deeply entrenched that someone like Mayor Karen Weaver apparently believed that she would somehow get away with essentially stealing charity funds for her own political use despite being under the nation's microscope.
And why shouldn't she? Upon reviewing the details of Henderson's lawsuit, it's clear Weaver has people covering her back -- namely, Flint's legal council, who almost certainly alerted Weaver to Henderson's request to open a misconduct probe.
Flint City Administrator Natasha Henderson, it would seem, is among the few Flint officials attempting to do their jobs with integrity and for that she was unfairly punished. The fate of the city employee who alerted Henderson to Weaver's alleged misconduct is not known, however if she were identified it's likely she would face retaliation as well.
If you believe Natasha Henderson deserves to not only be restored to her position as Flint's city administrator but that Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Flint's legal council should be investigated by Michigan's Attorney General for misconduct, please add your name to our petition!