Snyder's "Unconscionable" Use of Millions in Taxpayer Money for Criminal Defense Fees Questioned

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Snyder's "Unconscionable" Use of Millions in Taxpayer Money for Criminal Defense Fees Questioned

"I can't think of a clearer conflict of interest than the governor signing a contract to provide his own personal legal defense … without anybody providing oversight," attorney said.

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan is under fire for using public funds to defend himself over the Flint water crisis. (Photo: Detroit Free Press)

One resident of Flint, Michigan—a city still grappling with a lead-contamination crisis—is asking a grand jury to look into whether Gov. Rick Snyder illegally used $2 million in taxpayer money for his legal fees related to the disaster.

"After what has happened in this city, it's just a slap in the face," said 46-year-old Keri Webber, adding that she finds it "unacceptable and unconscionable" for city residents to "pa[y] for the defense of the very man at the center of the whole issue."

Webber is represented in the case, filed Tuesday in the Ingham County Circuit Court, by attorney Mark Brewer, a former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. She says her husband and 16-year-old and 21-year-old daughters are suffering from health effects from the lead-poisoned water.

The Associated Press reports:

The Republican governor has approved two contracts for outside Flint-related legal services worth $3.4 million, including $2 million for "records management issues and investigations" and $1.4 million to defend against civil lawsuits.

The complaint questions the $2 million contract.

According to the complaint, the Detroit News reports, "Snyder did not have the proper legal authority to enter into the contract and violated a constitutional prohibition against public officials engaging in transactions that create a conflict of interest."

"I can't think of a clearer conflict of interest than the governor signing a contract to provide his own personal legal defense … without anybody providing oversight," Brewer said.

Brewer "alleges in his complaint that amounts to misconduct in office, a crime," the Detroit Free Press adds.

Snyder's office defended the use of public money for the criminal fees as "legally sound" because they were for dealing with lawsuits "brought against the office of the governor in an official capacity."

According to advocacy group Progress Michigan, Webber was forced to file the suit because Attorney General Bill Schuette failed in his capacity.

"Public money should be going to help the families in Flint get their pipes replaced and attain other desperately needed services due to the Flint Water Crisis. It should not be assisting our multi-millionaire governor who is responsible for the crisis shield himself from accountability," said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.

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