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Taxpayers could pony up $3.4 M for Snyder's legal bills; lawmaker wants to prevent that

Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

Defending Governor Snyder from Flint-related lawsuits and investigations could cost taxpayers up to $3.4 million. But a state lawmaker says public money shouldn't be used to defend him.

Snyder is extending contracts with two private legal firms who've been representing him. He notified the State Administrative Board on Tuesday: 

"Pursuant to State Administrative Board Resolution 2011-1, Governor Richard D. Snyder has approved amending two contracts for legal services. The contracts include (1) an amended agreement between Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, P.L.L.C. 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 $1,400,000.00; and (2) an amended agreement between 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 $2,000,000.00."

State Sen. Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, is planning to introduce a billthat would block the governor (and a few other top officials) from using public money to pay for private attorneys in any legal matter that's job-related. 

"Obviously the intent is to rein in, sort of this outrageous amount of public dollars being spent on private counsel,” Ananich said Tuesday on Stateside. “The citizens would have much more clarity to make sure that tax dollars aren't wasted on high-priced outside counsel, when terrible decisions are made by the administration.”

The state attorney general's office is also providing Snyder's some legal help, but the governor was advised to get private representation as well, especially because the AG's office is also investigating the water crisis.

“The work being done by the civil attorneys supplements the work being done by the attorney general's office to respond to lawsuits against the governor's office,” says Anna Heaton, a spokesperson for the governor’s office.

“For context: Prior to this, attorney fees only for the months of February and March had been paid. The contract extension will allow the office to pay invoices received for spring and summer months and future bills. So, it wouldn't be accurate to say these amounts have been spent so far. This notification to the (administrative) board is being made so that we can spend it in the future.”

Heaton says the governor isn't required to create a legal defense fund.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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