Michigan governor’s private lawyers withholding Flint crisis docs – attorney general

A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western high school in Flint. © Carlos Barria
A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western high school in Flint. © Carlos Barria
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s private attorneys withheld documents related to the Flint water crisis from state lawyers investigating the matter, the state’s attorney general said.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette told reporters Tuesday that his investigators are being stonewalled by Snyder’s private attorneys, who are set to receive more than $1.2 million in taxpayer funds for providing the governor with legal counsel.

"The attorneys with the Department of Attorney General are handling themselves in an exceedingly exceptional fashion," Schuette said at a round table, according to the Detroit News. "But it's the governor's private attorneys who were not providing sufficient information."

Schuette, a Republican, said that his office is currently bargaining with the GOP governor, but will not rule out legal methods to obtain the documents related to the lead contamination of the Flint, Michigan water supply.

“One way or another, we’ll make sure we get the documents we need,” he said, according to Michigan Radio.

Todd Flood, who was appointed as a special prosecutor by Schuette, said last week that his investigators ran into roadblocks when they requested documents from state agencies. He claims that the withheld documents are critical to his criminal investigation.

Snyder denied the assertion that his attorneys were holding any documents from Schuette’s investigators.

“We’ve been working hard to cooperate fully,” Snyder told reporters, according to The Detroit News. “Actually, we’ve been working with the attorneys general that represent us on responses and such, so we’re going through that whole process.”

The governor pointed to the large amounts of materials that his attorneys have already handed over to investigators, saying that these documents numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Schuette was recently authorized to spend as much as $4.9 million to pay for attorneys and investigators to bring the probe into the handling of the Flint water crisis.

"This is not an investigation that can be done on the cheap, and the funds that the Department is requesting have already been designated by the Legislature to fund the ongoing investigation,” the attorney general said, according to The Detroit News.

Flint’s water supply became contaminated with lead after the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as the result of financial difficulties. The corrosive water from the river caused lead from pipes to leach into drinking water, leading to health problems with the residents of the city.

A previous state probe found that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was responsible for the situation, which was declared an emergency by President Barack Obama in January.