LANSING, Mich. — Jeffrey Brown, who is running for an at-large seat on the Lansing City Council, filed for bankruptcy back in 2015, telling the court he owed more than $190,000 in debts and had less than $30,000 in assets.
Among the debts listed in his bankruptcy petition were significant amounts owed to former employees of The Inspirational Center, a social service agency Brown once ran.
Court documents show he owed former employees more than $45,000 in wages. He owed $19,000 to the organization's vice president Ed Hassenger and $14,000 to the former operations manager. The document also said he owed $23,000 in late federal taxes, $19,000 on a five-year-old BMW and $26,000 on an office lease.
“I didn’t owe anybody any wages," Brown said, though the court petition labels nine separate debts as wages. "My mom was going through cancer and I had just come from a mission trip in Honduras. I got a phone call from my mom saying she had stage 4 cancer. I took the next plane out, and that became my priority."
When the discrepancy was pointed to him by a reporter, Brown said he the paperwork had been filled out by an attorney and, "at the time when I answered the question I totally had forgotten the employees listed in the document.
He added that he regrets any issues his bankruptcy may have caused for employees or creditors.
Crystal Gath said she worked for Brown managing a home in Howell for adults with mental disabilities. Brown's bankruptcy filing says he owed her $5,000.
"My last two checks I did not receive from him," she said
"I hope he did it for good reason," Gath added. "There was a lot of people affected by this...We all were trying to be a part of helping somebody, and I felt a little bit slapped in the face."
Hassenger says Brown owed him "at least" $19,000.
"As far as him serving the city of Lansing, I would seriously question that," Hassenger said. "He did not serve the people of our business."
The bankruptcy was finalized in 2015. Two years later, Brown borrowed more than $35,000 to buy a 2014 Cadillac CTS. The car was repossessed after he fell behind on payments and it was sold at auction, according to a complaint filed earlier this year by CASE Credit Union, which sued to recover the more than $20,000 he still owed. A judge has ordered him to pay back the money.
Brown says that was an error on the bank’s part and the debt was being reversed.
A lawyer for the credit union declined to comment on the case, but there are no documents in the court file that show any evidence of a reversal of judgment.
Fox 47 News asked Brown if voters could trust him to be fiscally responsible despite his personal dealings with money.
He says financial hurdles can impact anyone.
“We all have challenges just like with the COVID pandemic so it's all about you respond react and move forward,” said Brown.
Fox 47 News is checking into the backgrounds of all the candidates and will bring you an update on their campaigns before Election Day.
Want to see more local news? Visit the FOX47News Website.
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