Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who has been hammered over corruption charges since early May, did not redirect charitable donations to help citizens affected by the city’s water crisis to her political campaign, according to an independent attorney.
Brendon Basiga, an immigration attorney pegged by Flint to investigate Weaver, said at a press conference Monday that there was no evidence Weaver took part in ethical violations brought by former City Administrator Natasha Henderson.
“Simply put, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot find any evidence of unethical conduct by Mayor Karen Weaver,” Basiga said.
“I am so glad the independent investigation is complete and clears me and my staff of any wrongdoing regarding donations sent to the City of Flint,” Weaver, a Democrat, said in an email following Basiga’s statement.
Flint hired an outside law firm to investigate allegations brought by former interim City Attorney Anthony Chubb, who in May, was responsible for investigating the claims made by Henderson.
Henderson, who was hired by former Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, filed a lawsuit in May claiming she was fired after exposing a decision by Weaver to direct city employees to stop potential donations to a charity called Safe Water/Safe Homes in February.
Earley was appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to manage the transition of the city’s water supply from the Detroit River to the Flint River. Local officials have criticized Earley and Snyder for not taking decisive action after the water crisis erupted last year.
Weaver labeled the claims against her “outrageously false” in a press statement after the allegations went public.
The Community Foundation of Greater Flint was founded in 1988, though it is now being used to help those affected by Flint’s poisoned water.
Henderson claimed city employee Maxine Murray was told to shift the money from the Flint charity to a group called “KarenaboutFlint.” Murray went to Henderson shortly afterward because she was concerned about “going to jail,” according to the lawsuit.
Chubb resigned the city attorney position Friday, June 10.
Henderson reiterated her concerns in a February email to Chubb, imploring him to “promptly initiate an investigation of this matter in your capacity. He responded: “I will take prompt action and advise you later today.”
Mayor Weaver fired Henderson in February, stating Flint needed to institute a personal change to help address the water crisis. Henderson’s attorney, Katherine Smith Kennedy, told CNN Henderson played a crucial role in putting the city back online after reports surfaced showing the city’s water supply was tainted with lead.
“It was not until this report that there was any discussion of her being fired,” Kennedy said. “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.”
Kennedy said Monday that Henderson would continue her lawsuit against the city despite Basiga’s contention.
“Ms. Henderson was wrongfully terminated and her rights under both the Whistleblowers Protection Act and the First Amendment were violated,” Kennedy said. “As we have said before, Ms. Henderson is looking forward to sharing the evidence that supports her story and to having her day in court.”
Weaver lauded in March presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for working with her on a Flint jobs initiative. “She heard our cries,” Weaver told the press at the time. “She said she was going to do something to make this happen. It was her inspiration.”
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