Jan 26, 2023 - News

Detroit's Motor City Match whistleblower case going to trial

Illustration of a catapult loaded with a stack of lawsuit papers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Kennedy Shannon says she was fired from her city job in 2019 for reporting federal violations within Detroit's signature local business program, Motor City Match.

Why it matters: A Wayne County judge rejected the city's efforts to dismiss Shannon's 2019 lawsuit last November.

  • While a settlement is still possible, Shannon tells Axios she wants a jury and the public to hear the consequences she faced for speaking up, rather than pledging blind allegiance to Mayor Mike Duggan's administration.
  • "If I never get a dollar I'm completely OK," Shannon says. "I want the city to know you can't do this type of sā€” to people."

What they're saying: The judge's ruling is significant because employers' defense strategies for wrongful termination cases often revolve around getting them dismissed before they can get to a jury.

  • "Obviously the population does not like public servants who are retaliated against," longtime civil rights and employment attorney Deborah Gordon, who is not involved in this case, tells Axios.

Context: As associate director in the Office of Grants Management, Shannon reviewed Motor City Match's reimbursement requests to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which previously supported the program with federal funds.

Flashback: Shannon claims the city began cooking up reasons to fire her after she reported concerns about payment requests that didn't meet HUD's standards to both her bosses and the federal government in 2018.

  • Shannon also met with the city's inspector general to discuss Motor City Match after she was suspended with recommended termination in May 2019. At that time, she also told the IG about her office's involvement in deleting sensitive government emails.

The other side: City lawyers argued in previous court filings that Shannon "was a horrible employee" who was repeatedly tardy and absent. They also said Shannon falsified time records, which she denied.

  • A city spokesperson declined our request for comment on the case yesterday.

What's next: A trial date is expected to be set on Feb. 8, Shannon's attorney, David Robinson, tells Axios.

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