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Fired for Exposing Corruption, Worker Says

DETROIT (CN) — The former public works director of a Michigan town says he was fired after he objected to the mayor and a city councilman using their clout to take city services for themselves and their friends.

Richard Browning says in a complaint filed in Wayne County, Michigan, that he was not given proper notice to defend himself when he was fired in a vote by the City Council. Browning says he had raised numerous concerns about preferential treatment including a directive by Mayor Stacy Striz to keep water flowing to her friends despite their delinquent accounts or to restore water services to accounts that were suspended. He says that when he reported this to City Administrator Richard Ortiz, Ortiz essentially told him "[Striz] was the boss" and he should do what she says.

Despite limited municipal funds, Striz also directed Browning to provide tree-cutting services to her friends before other citizens were considered and also had related services at her home billed to the city, Browning says in his complaint.

Browning says he also raised concerns to Ortiz about the misuse of water funds intended for the improvement of new equipment at the Department of Public Works but were instead used for city bills and the maintenance of an arena. He says he told Ortiz that if certain gate valves were not maintained correctly it could lead to flooding in the city.

Meanwhile, Browning says he also discovered that City Councilman Carl Louvet was running a Little League field and concession stand without any connection to a city meter to track energy use.

According to the complaint, after Browning blew the whistle on these activities and others the City Council voted to fire him.

Browning is suing for violation of the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act, wrongful termination, termination of a public employee without due process and violation of the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.

Defendants include the city of Melvindale, Striz, Ortiz, Louvet and city councilmembers Michelle Said Land, Dave Sybulski, Steven Densmore and Wheeler Marsee.

Emails seeking comment from Striz and Ortiz sent after hours were not returned.

Browning is represented by Nanette Cortese of Bingham Farms, Michigan.

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