Flint, MI — Flint City Council Vice President Ladel Lewis has officially stepped down as head of a nonprofit she founded after some council colleagues questioned her role and funding the organization received from a company looking to redevelop the Buick City property on Flint’s north side.
In Sept. 9, 2023 filings to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Lewis is no longer listed as the president or resident agent of the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association.
Lewis’ connections to the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association as the president and founder came under fire in August 2023, following revelations regarding $1,500 given to the nonprofit from Ashley Capital, a developer who was seeking project approval from the city council.
However, Lewis told Flint Beat she has not been leading the organization for years.
“I have not been the acting president since I took over my council seat,” she said.
Dachelle McDonald, who was previously listed as the treasurer, is now listed as the president, treasurer, secretary and resident agent.
Lewis said McDonald has been the acting president, they just hadn’t filed the paperwork.
“Due to the fact that my colleagues are on such a witch hunt to defame my character, I went ahead and just followed through with the paperwork because I’m busy tending to the work of the second ward,” Lewis said.
Lewis said McDonald is a longtime friend and has been heading the organization’s work since she stepped down.
“She is a longtime childhood friend who’s been doing great things in the community for many years,” she said. “She has been acting as the official president, doing the work, writing the grants and doing all of the above on behalf of the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association.”
Lewis told Flint Beat that she stepped down as president sometime in 2022.
Flint City Councilmen Quincy Murphy and Eric Mays were also questioned regarding funds from Ashley Capital.
Ashley Capital co-founder, Richard A. Morton, gave $11,000 to Genesee County Habitat for Humanity for a “lawnmower donation.” Habitat serves as Murphy’s fiduciary for his community projects in the third ward.
Mays received $1,050 to his political campaign in 2022.
At an Aug. 9 committee meeting, Mays and Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer requested a legal opinion from Flint City Attorney William Kim on the issue.
“No violations of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, Michigan Standards of Conduct for Public Officers and Employees Act, or the Flint City Charter have occurred. As a result, none of the donations made by the Ashley Capital PAC to campaign committees or non-profit entities creates a requirement that Councilmembers Mays, Lewis, or Murphy recuse themselves from voting on matters related to Ashley Capital,” Kim wrote in the August opinion.
At a Sept. 18 special council meeting, council voted to make the opinion public. The opinion states that the donations do not require Mays, Lewis or Murphy to recuse themselves from council votes involving Ashley Capital.
Following the August legal opinion and the news about the financial contributions to Ashley Capital, Pfeiffer crafted an ordinance, which has yet to be introduced to council, regarding city officials’ involvement with nonprofits.
The ordinance draft says that those who hold “directorship positions” in non-profit organizations are prohibited from accepting donations from “entities engaged or attempting to engage in business with the city.”
At the time, Pfeiffer told Flint Beat that the contributions set a “horrible precedent.”
“We can’t as elected officials keep going down this path,” Pfeiffer said in a mid-August interview.
Then, at a Sept. 6, 2023 finance committee meeting, a resolution on the agenda was set to give $50,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association, sparking discourse again over Lewis’ involvement.
“Why is she applying for money for her organization as a councilperson…and she was on the [ARPA] Ad-Hoc Committee,” Flint City Councilwoman Tonya Burns said at the Sept. 6 meeting.
After hearing about the leadership change in the LARA filings, Burns told Flint Beat that Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association seeking funding was still “unethical” due to Lewis’ involvement.
“She should step down actually from city council, there are residents who are still seeking [funds] . . . and we have the [Lewis]…who applied for the $50,000 for ARPA funds. It’s unethical. We’re supposed to serve the public and not serve ourselves,” Burns said.