Only on 7: Former Highland Park Emergency Financial Manager caught misusing funds being paid again

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) - He was forced to leave his job in 2009 and had to serve 2 years probation for misusing funds. He also agreed to payback a 6 figure restitution.

But, now he's back collecting a paycheck on that same city's payroll.

Arthur Blackwell is a name well known to people of Highland Park, but until now many had no idea he'd returned to a paying job with the city.

The city has a history of tough times. Former Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Blackwell to oversee the city's finances back in April of 2005.

"I was approached because of my expertise" says Blackwell.

He originally offered to work for just $1 but later renegotiated for $11,000 a month - money he says he earned fairly till he was terminated in April of 2009.

"When I came to Highland Park we had a $15 million dollar structural deficit, and when I left we had a $2.5 million dollar surplus."

Prosecutors later concluded not only did he eventually get 6 figure compensation, but he also wrote himself a check from the city for money he was not entitled to, for the exact same services.

7 Action News first told you about Blackwell pleading no contest to mismanaging funds, a lesser crime than the original charge of embezzlement.

In April, 2013, he was sentenced to 2 years probation and ordered to return $264,000 in restitution.

"The point is, it went through a court process and got settled" says Blackwell.

Now, he says he's been working all these years pro bono on behalf of citizens. He's also returned $66,000 in restitution.

So, when a chance came up to consult for pay for Highland Park in late 2016, he saw nothing wrong with it.

Under contract from December 2016 to March 2017, he's helping rewrite the city's 50-year-old charter. The contract pays him $9,000.

Charter commissioners who chose him tell us he brings valuable experience, and was willing to work on the project when another consultant failed to get the job done.

But, Wayne State University professor of law and governmental ethics Peter Henning says it raises red flags - bringing someone back after trust has been broken or damaged.

"Its the type of crime that really involved a betrayal of trust" says Henning.

Citizens we talked to also expressed concern and opposition to bringing back Blackwell.

In the meantime, he says he's negotiated his remaining restitution balance down to $110,00 with city council. He promises to return the money by the end of 2017.

He says he'll continue to work for the city pro bono, once his contract expires at the end of March.

 

 

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