Former director of Macomb County Health Department files whistleblower suit

Posted at 1:21 PM, Oct 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-08 18:17:02-04

(WXYZ) — The fired Macomb County director of Health and Community Services has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the county alleging she was fired after addressing discrimination complaints from other African American employees.

Rhonda Powell was the highest-ranking African American in the county, according to her lawyer, Nabih Ayad, overseeing three separate departments. According to her lawyer, her duties included addressing diversity and inclusion in the county, and she was one of the founders of One Macomb.

According to the county, One Macomb works to promote multiculturalism and inclusion through the arts, identify and implement multicultural practices and more.

Her lawyer said that when she discovered the complaints had gone without answer, she tried to address them but was "met with resistance at every turn."

Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka issued the following statement on the lawsuit:

Ms. Powell’s termination had nothing to do with race or being a whistleblower.

It was a direct result of a series of serious administrative failures which resulted in a loss of trust and confidence in her ability to responsibly supervise the County’s Health and Community Services Division.

Some examples include:

  • Multiple violations of the County’s ordinances/policies and state law
  • Inappropriate use of County facilities
  • Misappropriation of County funds
  • Compromising the security of County facilities

The Macomb Charter provides that Executive appointees serve at will, at the pleasure of the Executive, and therefore can be removed at any time, with or without cause. Ms. Powell knew that when she accepted the appointment.