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Flint Councilman Eric Mays’ Son Files Lawsuits Against City and Others Over Insurance Policy Following His Father’s Death

The recent death of Flint Councilman Eric Mays, who served as a city council member since 2013 and was among the first officials to raise concerns about Flint’s water quality issues in 2014, has led to his son filing two lawsuits against individuals associated with the late politician, including the city.

Eric Mays, photo via Flint City Council

On March 8, Eric HaKeem Deontaye Mays filed a lawsuit demanding that the city of Flint produce a copy of his late father’s life insurance policy within 48 hours. The son claims the policy was active when the councilman died intestate, or in other words, without a will, as he believes he is the beneficiary of $75,000, MLive reported.

Who Was Eric Mays?

Mays Sr., whose fiery comments during council meetings became TikTok famous, passed away on Feb. 24 at the age of 65, though the cause of his death remains unclear.

The lawsuit, the second one filed by the son within a month, is directed against Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Flint City Attorney William Kim, and Flint Human Resources Director Eddie Smith in Genesee Circuit Court, overseen by Judge Chris Christenson, Flint Beat reported.

According to Lento Law attorney John A. Fernandez, who represents the surviving son, Kim and Smith’s preventation stemmed from directives given by Mayor Neeley.

Mays Sr. was known for advocacy for holding the city accountable, particularly during the water crisis.

The water crisis, with some arguing it is still ongoing, continues to be a national debacle resulting from a decision by a Republican-led governor’s administration to switch the water supply as a cost-cutting measure. The oversight neglected to consider the challenges posed by transitioning from the Detroit River to the Flint River, which suffers from lead contamination due to aging pipes leaching into the water supply.

In 2015, Mays Sr. organized a public meeting where hundreds of residents gathered to discuss the city’s water quality, expressing their concerns about water-related skin issues, USA Today reported.

On Jan. 14, 2021, ex-Gov. Rick Snyder, alongside eight of his workers in connection with the Flint water crisis, got charged for exposing Flint residents to dangerous levels of lead and Legionnaires’ disease. All charges were dropped by October 2023.

On Feb. 1, 2024, just before the commencement of a jury trial in the certified class action against Veolia, the final water engineering firm in Flint, Michigan, property owners, businesses, and adults reached a $25 million settlement with Veolia. This settlement brings the total settlements so far to $655 million. But according to a recent article in USA Today, many residents say they have yet to receive their shares of the settlement.

Mays Sr. was recognized for his controversial behavior and frequent outbursts, resulting in his removal from council meetings on several occasions.

At the time of his passing, Mays was contesting a three-month suspension from his council seat imposed by his fellow members on the city’s legislative body. They temporarily removed him after accusing him of using “racist rhetoric” during public hearings, The Detroit Free Press reported.

As far as his finances, representatives state that the former councilman never designated a beneficiary. Hence, the policy is payable to his estate per city policy. An estate representative needs to be appointed before they can pay out.

While Mays’ son accuses the city of retaliation due to animosity towards the late councilman as “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” Mayor Neely has expressed disappointment over the “misleading allegations,” stating that they have caused “undue strife,” MLive reported.

“We continue to lift the entire family of Eric Mays in prayer as mourners wait to pay their final respects to the 1st Ward councilman, and we pray for comfort and peace for our community in this time of sorrow,” Neeley said.

Flint City Attorney William Kim indicated his intention to seek dismissal of the lawsuit, which he deemed “frivolous,” as soon as possible.

Kim said, “Based on the prior lawsuits that have been filed by the Lento Law Group against the City of Flint and its officials, we expect to seek, at minimum, dismissal of this action as frivolous at the earliest possible opportunity.”

“Under the applicable city benefit policies, ‘in the event no beneficiary is designated, the policy will be payable to the employee’s estate,’” Flint Human Resources Director Eddie Smith stated. “A personal representative of the late councilman’s estate must be designated by the probate court in order for the city to effectuate payment, and to date, the city has not received any documentation showing that this has occurred.”

The lawsuit against the city marks the second legal action initiated this week by Mays’ son.

On March 4, Mays Jr. filed the first lawsuit alleging that his family members, including an aunt and three uncles, along with Lawrence E. Moon Funeral Home, were holding his late father’s body “hostage,” according to The Detroit Metro Times.

The son’s lawsuit asserts that he has next-of-kin rights over the remains since Mays Sr. died without a will. The first lawsuit alleges the siblings provided false information to improperly obtain control of the body from the funeral home.

Mays’ son is asking the judge, Judge Brian S. Pickell of Michigan’s 7th Circuit Court, to order the release of the remains to a funeral home of his choosing.

The judge recessed the hearing until March 11, leaving in place an injunction against the Mays family holding the funeral they had arranged for March 9.

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