Flint Mayor Karen Weaver asked employees to redirect charitable donors to a nonprofit fund she created shortly after taking office in 2015, an ex-city official testified during a federal whistleblower trial in Detroit on Wednesday, May 8.
Weaver, who took the stand briefly Wednesday and may testify further Thursday, said she created the fund at the recommendation of other mayors or advisers from across Michigan, including former Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero and Lansing Bishop David W. Maxwell, who assisted in the fund’s creation.
The mayor testified that Lansing-based Martin Waymire public relations firm recommended she devote a half-day per week to soliciting funds by phone from business leaders and charitable foundation directors. Because she was unable to devote the time, the firm helped draft a solicitation letter, but Weaver said she never mailed it.
Weaver testified the fund was “no secret,” intended to offset travel costs incurred while she spread the word across the state and nation about “what was going on with the city of Flint.”
“It couldn’t be secret if I was going to send out letters and make calls,” Weaver testified.
The mayor said she’d hoped to raise enough funds to compensate volunteers who assisted with the fund.
“At some point, I wanted to get Mr. Gilcreast paid,” Weavers said, referring to her close political adviser.
“They got slick,” said community activist and Weaver critic Arthur Woodson, who attended Wednesday’s hearing. “They were trying to steal the money.”
Amid the city’s water contamination crisis, Weaver issued an emergency declaration in December 2015, spurring an influx of donations. However, ex-Chief Financial Officer Jody Lundquist said the city wasn’t set up to receive tax-exempt donations.