ALPENA – A former Alpena County employee accuses the county of illegal use of grant money and forced her to resign to cover up alleged wrongdoing.
Former home improvement director Thea Lucas has filed a lawsuit claiming the county violated whistleblower protection law when a county official forced her to resign as she attempted to address the alleged money mismanagement.
Lucas claims the county abused $32,000 in grants for the Alpena County Home Improvement Program by adding ineligible expenses to the program’s budget.
The Home Improvement Program helps low-income residents get funds to make improvements to their homes
The lawsuit, filed in November, names the county, commissioner Marty Thomson and former chief executive Tammy Sumerix-Bates as defendants. Lucas is seeking $25,000 in damages, according to court documents.
Thomson said Wednesday he had no comment on the ongoing litigation, which is being handled by attorneys for the county insurance company. Contact details for Sumerix-Bates were not immediately available. Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Adrian said he had no comment.
Lucus referred all questions about the case to his attorney, Victor Mastromarco, who did not respond to a request for comment.
If the state believes that the expenses in question violated the terms of the grants, the county could be forced to repay the money.
Lucas claims that when she attempted to highlight potential liability to the county and attempted to be put on the agenda of county council meetings to address the issue, she was met with resistance and protests. threats against the housing program and its work by Bates and Thomson. .
In an Aug. 31 phone call, Lucas said in the lawsuit, Thomson told her she needed to sign a separation agreement instead of being fired, which she eventually did.
Mastromarco also represented former Alpena County Deputy Sheriff Terry King when he sued the county and Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski over a whistleblower protection law violation claim in 2019 after have been forced to resign. The county ended up settling with King for $125,000.
The case is scheduled for court on July 14.