Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has retained two attorneys, including a civil defense lawyer and a criminal lawyer, to serve as “investigatory counsel” as the bombshells keep exploding regarding his role in the Flint water crisis.
The lawyers were each awarded a contract valid throughout 2016 worth $249,000 each — to be paid by “state funds,” or the taxpayers. The contracts are just $1,000 below the threshold of $250,000 that would require approval from the State Administrative Board.
Meanwhile, the cost associated with Flint’s drinking water has now surpassed $140 million, and will continue to grow. On Thursday, Snyder filed an appeal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, seeking more funds. He also revealed that the city spent $18.4 million trying to fix the water system prior to October 1, 2015 — the date when he went public with the revelation that the city’s water was poisoned with lead.
So far, the state legislature has approved $67.4 million in funding, but Snyder is seeking an additional $165 million. Flint has been receiving FEMA aid since January 12, two days before Snyder requested emergency and disaster declarations. President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency on the 16th.
Snyder spokesman Ari Adler told the Detroit Free Press that the investigatory counsel was necessary to process emails and other records, including the work involved with the email release over the weekend.
“We do not believe there will be a need for criminal defense, because the governor and his administration have not committed any crimes,” Adler said. But a firm “has the ability to assist with quickly reviewing a massive amount of documents.”
Since the scandal broke, activists, residents, and politicians have all been calling for Snyder’s resignation. On Wednesday, Michigan House Democratic leader Tim Greimel became the first state legislator to join their calls.
“It’s now clear that for over a year the governor’s top aides and advisers wrote thousands of emails relating to the Flint situation, and that they held many meetings and had many conversations about Flint,” Greimel told MLive. “It is inconceivable that the governor wasn’t aware of what was going on. In fact, the governor’s own chief of staff came out last week and indicated that he had been keeping the governor informed all along the way.”
The poisoning of Flint water began in April 2014, when the city stopped receiving its supply from Detroit, instead shifting to water taken directly from the Flint River, a source known to have a high corrosive salt content. Corrosive salts in the water damaged the pipes, which contain lead, causing that material to be released into the water, and contaminating it.
The FBI has joined the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General, and the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, into the wide-ranging criminal probe of the Flint water crisis, to determine which laws were broken and who broke them.