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"He wants to run the state like a business," attorney says of Gov. Rick Snyder. "Well. The citizens of Flint, as shareholders in the corporation of the state of Michigan, I don't think they were treated in an appropriate way." (Photo: Donkey Hotey/flickr/cc)

Lawsuits, Including RICO Charge, Pile Up for Embattled Michigan Governor

Rick Snyder also named in a federal lawsuit filed by the Detroit school board that blames the district's financial troubles on state emergency manager law

Deirdre Fulton

Charging that the Flint water crisis was part of an "intentional scheme" created by state officials to save money, a group of 15 citizens on Wednesday filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against Gov. Rick Snyder and other high-profile state officials.

MLive reports that the civil lawsuit seeks "financial compensation for property damage, loss of business and financial losses attributed to the city's water crisis; as well as compensatory damages for future medical care and punitive damages."

The complaint names Snyder, his former Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and multiple members of its staff, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and members of its staff, the City of Flint and members of its public works department, multiple engineering companies that were hired to evaluate the city's water system, former Mayor Dayne Walling, and three of the city's former emergency managers.

Speaking of Snyder's avowed approach to governing, attorney Marc J. Bern told MLive: "He wants to run the state like a business. Well. The citizens of Flint, as shareholders in the corporation of the state of Michigan, I don't think they were treated in an appropriate way."

The Detroit Free Press reports:

The lawsuit accuses Snyder and others of hatching a "wrongful scheme" to reduce Flint’s indebtedness by stopping the impoverished city from buying treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, instead of "invoking time tested, well-honed federal bankruptcy protections for restructuring the debts of municipalities."

"Governor Snyder was an integral actor in the scheme that intentionally defrauded, misrepresented and falsified information and warning signs relating to the property and financial affairs of Flint as it affected its citizenry," the lawsuit (pdf) reads, "by planning, directing, coordinating and facilitating the State’s insufficient response to the free but toxic Flint River water and failing to warn and protect the residents of the City of Flint of the consequences of the toxic water as effects their health and property values, despite having knowledge and evidence to the contrary at all times."

This is just the latest in a slew of lawsuits that have been filed in the wake of the water-contamination emergency, though it is the first to cite Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, laws.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press on Thursday reports that Snyder "has been named in a federal lawsuit filed by the Detroit school board that—in part—blames the district's financial troubles on Michigan's emergency manager law."

According to the AP:

The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of about 58,000 students enrolled since 2011.

It also names three former emergency managers appointed by Snyder and says that under state control the district has been turned into a “virtual financial hell-hole.”

As Common Dreams reported, Detroit teachers held "sick-outs" earlier this year to protest horrifying conditions at cash-strapped schools. Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Darnell Earley, who also played a central role in Flint, resigned earlier this year. 

Furthermore, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) the ranking minority member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is questioning the accuracy of testimony given by Snyder at last month's Capitol Hill hearings on the lead-contamination crisis.

Citing inconsistencies in his March 17 testimony before the committee, Cummings—who at the time called for Snyder's resignation—said in a letter (pdf) sent Thursday, "it appears you have learned little from this disaster and that you have changed virtually nothing about your approach."

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