Former Employee: Flint Mayor’s Vehicle Cost Taxpayers Up to $41,000 Since 2019

by Scott McClallen


A former employee says Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley has driven an unmarked city-owned police car since 2019.

The perk has cost taxpayers up to $41,000 in lease costs, auto insurance, maintenance, and gas.

Sixth Ward City Councilmember Tonya Burns says she picked up the vehicle in late 2019 when she worked as Neeley’s legislative liaison. She then brought it to Neeley (pictured above).

Burns estimated Neeley’s lease cost, gas, auto insurance, and maintenance could cost taxpayers up to $1,000 each month, which would total $41,000 counting 2020, 2021, 2022, and part of 2023.

MoneyGeek says the average auto insurance cost in Flint costs about $361 monthly.

The Center Square has filed requests for the taxpayer cost of this vehicle, but Flint’s legal department hasn’t yet provided the records.

The city of Flint says Neeley drives the police vehicle because of credible threats but didn’t say when those threats happened. The Center Square obtained a photo of the city-issued car parked in Neeley’s driveway in January 2022.

“I’m the one who went and got the vehicle,” Burns said in a phone interview. “It should not even be on the police budget. There was no security threat at all, no violence. He was newly elected into office.”

That benefit, if added to Neeley’s $125,000 annual salary, would push his salary to about $137,000. Meanwhile, U.S. Census data says the per capita income of Flint over the last year in 2021 dollars was $18,719.

In response to a records request, Flint legal’s department said Neeley doesn’t have a contract.

Burns questioned why Neeley drives a city-issued car.

“It’s not in his fringe benefits package,” Burns said. “Not only does he have these vehicles, he also uses city gas. The last mayor who received a vehicle was over 20 years ago, which was in his contract.”

“The gas, the insurance, the maintenance, is all on the taxpayer,” Burns said. “It’s not fair because it wasn’t negotiated in his contract.”

Former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver told The Center Square that Don Williamson was the last city mayor to receive a city-issued vehicle. Williamson vacated the seat in 2009.

“The stories he’s putting out are nowhere near true,” Weaver said in a phone interview, describing Neeley’s justification for using a city vehicle. “It was never because of threats and it wasn’t because I had a car, because I didn’t,” Weaver said.

“He has a car that’s being paid for by our tax dollars, the insurance is covered on it, and he gets free gas,” Weaver said. “That’s a nice raise.”

Weaver, mayor from 2015-2019, questioned what security the police vehicle provides that the mayor’s vehicle doesn’t provide.

“It’s not an armored vehicle,” Weaver said. “So how is that security? He says he’s getting threats, but he got it [the vehicle] when he first got into office,” Weaver said.

The Center Square gave the city of Flint a noon Monday deadline to comment on this story.

In a Wednesday video about public corruption, Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson urged elected officials to have “complete transparency” with the public.

“I hope this sends a message to all of us that are in public office: we have a high responsibility to make sure that what we say, what we do, and what we spend is done correctly,” Swanson said. “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.”

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on and Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Sheldon Neeley” by Mayor Sheldon A. Neeley.


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