Gov. Rick Snyder plans to pay attorneys $1.2 million for Flint water work, while Attorney General Bill Schuette requested $1.5 million to pay a law firm investigating the crisis.
Gov. Rick Snyder expanded contracts for attorneys in connection with the Flint water crisis, according to a March 8 agenda of the State Administrative Board.
"It's beyond outrageous that Snyder wants to take $1.2 million from Michigan taxpayers to pay for defense attorneys over his involvement in the poisoning of Flint's water," Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon said in a March 8 statement.
The agenda states Snyder "authorized an agreement with Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, for the provision of legal services related to civil litigation about municipal drinking water in the City of Flint, Michigan, in an amount not to exceed $400,000."
Snyder "authorized an agreement with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, for the provision of legal services related to records management issues and investigations regarding municipal drinking water in the City of Flint, Michigan, in an amount not to exceed $800,000."
Ari Adler, spokesman for the governor's office, said much of the costs are for processing the "enormous amount of data" including emails that must be processed including redaction for public release.
The cost is "based on work already completed and the workload looking ahead, and everything in between," Adler said, including workload for state departments responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, documents needed for court cases, and the "move of the the governor to be transparent" by releasing emails.
The use of state funds is appropriate for the transparency initiative and the rest of the work, Adler said.
Information is being released, now up to 15 batches and thousands of pages of emails, to respond to questions in the public and misinformation, Adler said.
The hired attorneys will also respond to requests for information from the Attorney General's office investigation, he said.
"You can't just magically make things appear," Adler said. "You have to search for them and process them."
Dillon said taxpayers are footing Snyder's and Schuette's legal bills related to the Flint water crisis.
"That money should go toward replacing lead pipes and getting safe drinking water to Flint families, not for Snyder's defense attorneys," Dillon said.
Adler responded that the governor's office is working to help the people of Flint, saying approximately $70 million has been secured out of $230 million the governor's office proposed.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D–Flint, criticized the development.
"Paying more for high-priced lawyers than we are for school nurses or fully refunding victims is another kick in the teeth to taxpayers and my community. Our priority should be sending every resource we can to removing pipes and protecting kids, not covering legal fees."
Flood Law funding
The office of Attorney General Bill Schuette requested $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars to pay Flood Law, according to the agenda.
Schuette appointed Todd Flood of Flood Law LLC to investigate the Flint water crisis, drawing criticism at the time because he made political donations to politicians including Snyder.
"Instead of conducting a truly independent investigation into the cause of the Flint water crisis, Bill Schuette is funneling $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars to Todd Flood, who has contributed thousands of dollars to Bill Schuette, and thousands more to Rick Snyder - the man he is supposed to be investigating," Dillon said in a March 8 statement.
"The people of Flint deserve better."
AG Spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said the Attorney General is "running an independent, broad-based investigation team that will leave no stone unturned."
The contract covers the costs of the entire team of of 25 including prosecutors and investigators, and anticipates "reasonable expenses" going forward," Bitely said.
The cost also covers information technology, Bitely said, "to conduct an independent, outside investigation on the non-governor's office side of the conflict wall, not connected in any way to the administration nor subject to the monitoring of the administration."