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Complaint says Gov. Snyder improperly hired legal defense team

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A complaint filed in Ingham County calls for a grand jury investigation into Governor Rick Snyder’s spending on a legal defense team. It accuses him of misconduct and abusing taxpayer dollars.

The legal action takes aim at Governor Snyder’s hiring of a private law firm to look out for his interests as state, federal, and county prosecutors conduct criminal investigations into the Flint water crisis.

The complaint says the governor violated the Michigan Constitution and state procurement laws by unilaterally approving a contract that he has a personal stake in.

“Simply put, the Governor has no legal authority to single-handedly approve public funds for his own private criminal defense,” says the complaint.

Flint resident Kerri Webber filed the complaint. She says taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the governor’s legal defense.

“Our governor, Rick Snyder, has taken $2 million to defend himself. That $2 million could do so much good in Flint.”

Webber says her family has suffered a variety of health problems and racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills due to the Flint water contamination. 

“And now, we’re paying for the defense of the very man at the center of the whole issue,” she said, “and, to me, that is unacceptable, and unconscionable.”

The governor has said the outside legal team is needed to handle the volume of requests related to the Flint investigations. He says the job is too big to be handled by the state attorney general’s office. He says the expenditure is appropriate because the investigations relate to his official duties as governor.

Attorney Mark Brewer, a former state Democratic Party chair, says Snyder should be paying his own legal expenses to deal with the criminal investigations into the Flint water crisis.

“He and his administration allowed that to happen,” said Brewer. “And now, they’re adding insult to injury by having the taxpayers of Flint and of the entire state pick up his criminal defense bill.”

Judges in the Ingham County Circuit Court will vote on whether to go ahead with an investigation, and name a one-person grand jury.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.