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October 18, 2019
©️ TheDailyGazette --- Posted 9 pm Oct.18, 2019 (Updated later on Oct. 18, 2019 with comments)
Flint Police Chief Timothy Johnson (center in uniform) poses during a 2018 press conference with Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver.
Posted on October 18, 2019
BY MIKE KILLBREATH
CCN Executive Editor
Flint mayor's administration hit with discrimination, sexual harassment lawsuit by 17 employees; HR Director, Police Chief, Deputy Chief, others
LFLINT (CCN) — The Daily Gazette has learned that a discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit has been filed by 16 employees of Flint Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver's administration. The lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of the employees and one other individual who said she was passed over for a job at the city's water department, according to Genesee County Circuit Court records.
The City of Flint is named in the lawsuit and two of Mayor Weaver's department heads — Police Chief Timothy Johnson and Human Resources Director Makini Jackson — were named individually. The case was filed by a private attorney representing the job applicant and all 16 of the employees. All but two plaintiffs are white. Chief Johnson and Jackson are blacks who serve under Mayor Weaver, who is also black. One plaintiff is black and one other plaintiff is black with Caribbean decent.
One city employee filing the case is an auditor, one is an electrician, one works in the maintenance department, one works in the City Transportation Department, one is an Operations Supervisor at the Water Pollution Control Plant, one is an account supervisor in the city's Finance Department, one is an assistant account supervisor in the city's Finance Department, five are patrol officers for the Flint Police Department, one is a sergeant at the police department, one is a detective, one is a clerk typist for Captain Sandra Taylor at the Flint Police Department, one is a former Lieutenant handling Internal Affairs Investigations for Chief Johnson before retiring last year and one is a woman who applied for a full-time clerk position at the City Water Department..
Two claims asserted in the lawsuit were violations of race discrimination under the State of Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. One other claim that was asserted in the lawsuit was for race and sexual harassment under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The final claim is for retaliation under the same law.
Chief Johnson said he could not comment because of the city's policy about pending litigation. Mayor Weaver's chief of staff, Aoine Gilcreast, did not respond to our request to comment on the lawsuit.
One long-time white police officer quickly came to the defense of Chief Johnson,, saying, "It's all fabricated. Anybody who knows Tim Johnson knows he is anything but a racist. Why would he hire a deputy chief who is white when he could hire anybody there, even go outside the department and hire someone?" Another long-time friend of the chief, who is white, added, "Nobody who knows Tim Johnson believes one word about him in this lawsuit."
A.C. Dumas, an aide to Mayor Weaver and a strong supporter of hers on his weekly Saturday radio show on WFLT1420 AM, was also unaware of the lawsuit when reached Friday night by The Daily Gazette. "The chief is a good man," Dumas said. "It sounds to me like politics by Sheldon Neeley. He's desperate."
Neeley, who is a third-term state legislator who served nine years on the Flint City Council, is running against Mayor Weaver in the upcoming Nov. 5 election. He retired from his old job as an engineer at ABC TV 12 when elected to the State House of Representatives five years ago and he can't run for re-election in 2020 because of term limits.
State Rep. Neeley has not issued a statement about the lawsuit, but he has been critical of the mayor's administration throughout the campaign and has called for a special task force to be formed because of what he calls a serious crime problem.He has disputed claims by the mayor and Chief Johnson that crime numbers are "down" in the city.
Two of Neeley's biggest supporters — Tonya Burns and Arthur Woodson — were quick to comment on Facebook after the news broke. The pair began hosting a weekly Thursday night program on the WFLT 1420 AM air waves after Neeley and Mayor Weaver won in the August primary when Burns mounted an unsuccessful write-in campaign. Burns, owner of Global Security in Flint, failed to get her name on the ballot when some of her signatures were rejected because they were not from registered voters in the city.
Burns posted a statement on Facebook, saying, "Flint simply can’t take another term with Mayor Weaver. The lawsuits alone will bankrupt Flint with this one having 17 plaintiffs... Flint residents need to run, fly, walk, drive, crawl to get (to) the voting (polls) to elect a new Mayor."
Community activist Woodson, who led the 2017 effort to collect enough signatures to force a recall election against Mayor Weaver, was the first to alert The Daily Gazette to the lawsuit and said, "This is a huge blow to her campaign." He posted the lawsuit for everyone to see on his Facebook page at about 9 pm Friday.
Mayor Weaver was elected to her first term in 2015 by unseating incumbent Dayne Walling in a landslide victory. She survived the recall challenge by getting more votes than all 18 challengers in the field.
The 16 employees used Flint attorney Dean Yeotis instead of the lawsuit being filed for them by lawyers through their various unions.
Kevin Smith, President of the Flint Police Officers Association, was not aware of the lawsuit when reached by The Daily Gazette Friday night. His union has endorsed Mayor Weaver for re-election along with the Flint Fire Department union and AFSCME Local 1600. Sam Muma, President of AFSCME Local 1600 and also President at the regional level for hundreds of AFSCME employees, had seven of his members involved in the lawsuit against the city. Muma has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Most of the plaintiffs complain in the lawsuit that they were ignored for promotions when Mayor Weaver's department heads instead ignored white applicants and picked black applicants. It was also alleged in the lawsuit that one of Chief Johnson's captains had told employees, "I hate white people."
The former Lieutenant with Chief Johnson's Internal Affairs Investigations alleged that he told him "there is no investigations" after learning that two of his key command staff members had been accused of sexual harassment. "Defendant Johnson then held up an older photo of the City of Flint Police Department 'higher ups' and said, 'my purpose is to change the color of all the people that fill these positions' ... Plaintiff conveyed he wanted no part of Defendant's 'purpose' and that he simply wanted to do his job and do it well."
Deputy Police Chief Devon Bernritter and Detective / Sergeant Tyrone Booth were Chief Johnson's command staff members accused in the lawsuit of sexual harassment. Neither man was available Friday night at the Flint Police Department. The lawsuit alleged that the pair are "best friends" and described Booth as Chief Johnson's "golden boy." It was also alleged in the lawsuit that Booth was promoted without passing the sergeant's test.
One plaintiff alleged that Booth began "unfair" treatment against her and "manufactured disciplines" after his sexual advances were rejected. She said he sent sexist texts and placed phone calls, asking that she "perform oral sex on him." The lawsuit alleged that Booth later approached her "while she was sitting in her office and intentionally thrust his pelvic area into plaintiff's face."
The same woman, who had been a patrol officer and assigned to work in the detective bureau, alleged in the lawsuit that Deputy Chief Bernritter "directed" her to perform oral sex on her while at the Flint Police Department building.
A link to a copy of the lawsuit is posted below the top story on today's front page of The Daily Gazette.
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