Attorney sues Kalamazoo County over firing

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo County’s former attorney has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the county and two commissioners.

Elizabeth White’s lawsuit alleges violations of the Whistleblower’s Protection Act and the Open Meetings Act, along with breach of contract and wrongful discharge. Commissioners Stephanie Moore and Commissioner Julie Rogers are directly named as defendants.

White’s attorney Katherine Smith Kennedy said retaliation against her client started after White reported the transfer of a foreclosed home from the county treasurer to nonprofit Mothers of Hope, which is run by Commissioner Moore’s mother.

The Michigan State Police investigated but no charges were ever filed.

Smith Kennedy said her client was doing her duty by reporting the concerns and faced ridicule in response.

“There’s a number of public disparagement episodes where members of the commission would say negative things about her and to her in public that was not appropriate, was embarrassing. It was humiliating,” Smith Kennedy said.

White’s performance review, obtained by News 8, gave her an average rating that was slightly above satisfactory. Some commissioners praised her work where others said it was slow and of poor quality.

White disputes the accuracy of the performance review.

“She was doing her job. She was reviewing things closely,” Smith Kennedy said. “She was looking at contracts and resolutions and taking the time necessary. She just kept getting pushed for not doing things quickly enough and not turning things over, which was this push to get her out.”

Commissioners unanimously voted to terminate White’s employment at their Nov. 6 meeting.

According to Smith Kennedy, the Open Meetings Act was violated at that meeting and the proper legal protocol was not followed.

“We were trying to work out matters with her employer recently and then, unbeknownst to her, a meeting took place on Nov. 6 where she was given no notice,” Smith Kennedy said.

Commissioners Moore and Rogers declined to comment to News 8 Thursday afternoon.

Both have 30 days to respond to court concerning the lawsuit.

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