Lansing Deputy Mayor steps down, launches private consulting firm

Schor: Harkins shifts from top slot to to part-time work on ‘special projects’

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FRIDAY, Nov. 13 — Lansing Deputy Mayor Samantha Harkins is stepping down from one of the top jobs in Lansing’s government and appears to have launched her own consulting business.

“She will no longer serve as deputy mayor and will instead take on a part-time role working on special projects,” Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said in a statement today. “She will continue to help Lansing by working with the business community and others to grow our city.”

State licensing records show Harkins opened a limited liability corporation titled “Hundred Place Consulting” last month. It doesn’t appear to have an online presence. Harkins didn’t return calls about whether her new business venture played a role in her reduced duties with the city.

Schor, however, said Harkins’ struggle with Crohn’s Disease combined with managing a young child in virtual school, made this the “best decision for her and her family.” Added Schor: “She is still a valued member of my team. This will allow her to focus more on her health and family.”

Harkins, at the end of June, was shuffled into the role of Deputy Mayor for Operations as Schor promoted Nik Tate from chief administrative officer to the new role of Deputy Mayor for Operations. Schor, at the time, said the move was based purely on enhancing efficiencies.

Harkins was to stay on as deputy mayor for policy initiatives and continue to serve as an executive assistant to the mayor, while instead shifting focus to a more ambiguous list of projects like partnerships, legislative work and strategic economic and community development.

In turn, Tate would oversee all internal operations, including management of Schor’s staff and department directors and resolving day-to-day issues involving finance, labor and human resources. As a result, his salary climbed from about $98,000 to $108,000 annually.  

Harkins also makes $108,000 annually. Her new salary in her part-time role hasn't yet been decided, officials said. 

The news of Harkins’ shifting roles follows a discrimination lawsuit levied against the city in August in which she — among other Schor administration officials — was personally named. The complaint alleges several former employees underwent “continuous discriminatory treatment, including hostile working environments and adverse employment actions.”

One plaintiff, former mayoral scheduler Natasha Atkinson, claimed that Harkins once told her that her “ovaries scream” when she sees Tate, a Black man, and that she “LOVES black men.”

The lawsuit also describes a “loud discussion” between Harkins and Joan Jackson Johnson, a Black woman and former human relations and community relations director who was suspended and then retired after she was accused of a series of federally recorded financial improprieties.

“I’m not scared of you,” Harkins reported said after yelling at Jackson Johnson.

After that incident, Atkinson said Harkins told her that “professional black women have a bad attitude” and “chip on their shoulder, maybe rightfully so, but they have to learn how to take direction,” according to the complaint. Racism, Atkinson contended, was abundant at City Hall.

Harkins also reportedly told Atkinson that mayoral staffer Valerie Marchand had “a problem with black people” after growing up in Troy, and that Atkinson “intimidated” her. Harkins also said Marchand “did not associate with black people,” so she was scared of Atkinson in the office.

The complaint also describes attempts from Atkinson to add some more diverse music to the city’s downtown playlist earlier this year. Marchand — who is also the city’s DJ — allegedly complained about Atkinson to Harkins and “went home crying,” according to the complaint.

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