LANSING, Mich. — Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Calley’s campaign director declined a $150,000 contract to help Flint with economic development, acknowledging that the proposal had led to “critical attention” and saying doing both jobs would have been a detriment to Flint and himself.
Matthew Gibb declined the offer in a letter to Mayor Karen Weaver on Wednesday after the city council approved it Monday night. His pay would have come from a four-year, $2.9 million grant the city received from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help address low staff levels and economic development needs.
A Flint receivership board appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder was due to consider the funding next week, raising questions about the propriety since Calley, the lieutenant governor, is a part of Snyder’s administration. Before joining Calley’s campaign, Gibb led economic development for Oakland County.
“Since the action by your good city council recommending an offer of contract to my firm, there has been enough critical attention that I know such concurrent work would result in a detriment both to the City of Flint and myself,” Gibb wrote on Wednesday. “I have great respect for what you are accomplishing in Flint and believe in the vision.”
He suggested that once he finishes working for Calley’s campaign, he could “again engage in the opportunity of what my background and passion may bring to your work.”
A super PAC aligned with state Attorney General Bill Schuette, Calley’s rival for governor, on Wednesday called on Calley to fire Gibb and said Thursday that Calley should release all communications among himself, Flint and state officials, members of the receivership board and Gibb.
“This attempt to subsidize Brian Calley’s campaign by the city of Flint didn’t come out of the blue. It clearly began somewhere,” said Stu Sandler, executive director of the Better Jobs Stronger Families political action committee. “Now that the Calley campaign is backpedaling, the people of Michigan, particularly the people of Flint, deserve to know how this plan was hatched and whether any wrongdoing took place.”
Weaver first publicly announced her plan to use the foundation grant to hire an economic development team on Feb. 19. Gibb joined the Calley campaign on Feb. 13 after resigning from Oakland County on Feb. 2.
Calley campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said that after Gibb left Oakland County, he was approached with a number of opportunities but is “fully committed to the campaign,” which is why he declined the offer.
He said Schuette should refund the state after putting constituent relations representatives on the attorney general’s office payroll while they have also worked on behalf of his campaign. In December, the Detroit Free Press reported that Schuette had hired GOP activists despite civil service rules prohibiting the hiring or firing of employees based on partisan considerations.
Calley this week also has faced scrutiny because about five weeks after he backed an $8 million state grant for an autism therapy company to relocate its headquarters within Michigan, an investor in Centria Healthcare who also sits on the company’s board hosted a kickoff fundraiser for Calley’s campaign. Calley, a longtime advocate for people with autism, said he only became aware of the grant last fall because the Michigan Economic Development Corp. informed him about its pending approval and invited him to comment.
“No one from the company had ever mentioned it, let alone asked for any help with it,” Schrimpf said.
Centria is under investigation by the attorney general’s office. Schuette’s campaign returned donations from Centria officials last month after his probe was reported by the Free Press.
Former employees have accused Centria of billing fraud and other wrongdoing that the Novi-based company denies. The super PAC backing Schuette said this week that Calley should return money from the kickoff fundraiser that was hosted by the Centria board member, but Calley has said the firm faces allegations, not findings.