Monday, December 03, 2012

Detroit Library Official Sues, Claiming She Lost Top Job Because Of Her Accent

Detroit — The scandal-plagued Detroit Public Library took another hit Monday when its deputy director sued on allegations she lost out on her bid for the top job because she is from Nigeria.

Juliet Machie sued the library commission in federal court for at least $75,000. She claims former commissioner Georgia Hill and current vice president Russ Bellant "engaged in the most vicious and damaging campaigns" to stop her promotion in 2009. Hill singled out Machie's accent in a text message to another staffer, the lawsuit claims.

"This was the first time in the library's history that a library director was appointed from the outside," the lawsuit stated.

Machie, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was running day-to-day operations of the library before the commission hired Jo Anne Mondowney in August 2009.

The suit follows a string of controversies about spending and cronyism at the library and comes about two weeks after the FBI raided its Main Branch. The investigation focuses on contracts authorized by Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cromer, whose status at the library was still unclear Monday.

Hill said late Monday that she had not seen the lawsuit and couldn't directly respond to the allegations. But she noted Mondowney was selected by a 4-3 commission vote.

"I just selected the person who I thought was the best," Hill said.

Bellant declined comment Monday, saying he hasn't seen the suit.

Machie, who makes about $145,000 a year, helped lead the library's controversial South Wing expansion project between 2007 and much of 2009. The project began as a $300,000 furniture update and morphed into a $2.3 million renovation, including new floors, study rooms, lighting and built-in wood-frame bookshelves.

A commission's investigation obtained by The News last spring found irregularities in South Wing related contracts.

In the lawsuit, Machie maintains the audit was flawed and library attorneys urged the commission not to accept it. Machie's lawsuit alleges Bellant defamed her by referring to the report's findings in an email sent to the media and other groups.

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