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Michigan woman sues City of Hillsdale for unlawful termination

A Michigan woman filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Board of Public Utilities, the City of Hillsdale and their respective directors on Dec. 2, 2016. Her claim alleges that she was unlawfully let go from her role as utility finance controller in August 2016, after enduring harassment and retaliatory action, following an investigation into financial mishandling by city officials.

The plaintiff was originally hired to investigate what was originally thought to be the misallocation of more than $10 million for city officials' personal uses including allegations that the current head of Public Utilities had taken his family along on business trips using his city-issued credit card. Investigations into the latter's actions by an independent firm suggested his actions showed poor judgment, not embezzlement.

In her complaint, the plaintiff outlines how the city attorney and other public officials went to great lengths to cover up their internal investigation from the public. To this end, she details how a Letter of Engagement between the city and private firm they hired omits the terminology "embezzlement audit" and instead refers to the $40,000 paid to them as a reorganizing and financial recordkeeping procedure instead.

The claim asserts that her whistleblowing led to her superior requesting that all BPU employees to document all of the plaintiff's unbecoming behaviors in the workplace. This resulted in her being accused of sexual harrassment and infidelity, which she argues ultimately led to the dissolution of her 23-year marriage.

She also claims gender discrimination related to the inequitable handling of punishment for her versus men's alleged sexual harassment in her office. She also maintains the city manager violated the law in citing her bipolar disorder disability as evidence that she was ill-equipped for her role. The mental anguish resulting from the retaliatory work environment forced her departure just seven short months after starting the job.

She is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages to include receiving her promised city-sponsored retirement benefits package.

Source:, "Wrongful termination lawsuit alleges millions embezzled from public utility," Danielle Salisbury, Dec. 03, 2016

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