Bankruptcy judge gets involved in Flint Waters dispute

DETROIT – The Flint water criminal case involving former Gov. Rick Snyder made a strange side trip Wednesday to bankruptcy court where his attorneys asked a judge to penalize state prosecutors for distributing confidential documents about Detroit’s historic financial restructuring.

The documents were linked to private talks between Detroit, the state and creditors as the city attempted to come out of bankruptcy in 2014. Snyder’s administration played a key role in groundbreaking deals.

Armed with a search warrant in 2019, prosecutors in the Attorney General’s office obtained documents from computer servers controlled by other state prosecutors who had represented Snyder in cases related to contaminated water by Flint’s lead.

The search apparently swept through sensitive Detroit bankruptcy documents as well as attorney-client communications from other state officials, Snyder’s attorney Charles Ash said.

“There was a massive breach. … We don’t know how it happened and we don’t really know the extent of the problem, ”Ash told bankruptcy judge Thomas Tucker.

The files were turned over to others accused of crimes in the Flint water scandal because prosecutors have an obligation to share the documents with defense attorneys.

In response, John Van Deventer, chief attorney general, told the judge the issue can be resolved by telling all parties that the files should be kept confidential.

“The department believes this motion has little to do with protecting sensitive information and everything to do with stopping the criminal prosecution of Flint Water,” Van Deventer said.

Snyder, who served as governor until 2019, faces tort charges of willful neglect.

Flint, although under the control of managers appointed by Snyder, used the Flint River for drinking water in 2014-2015 without treating it properly to reduce corrosion. Lead leached out of old pipes and contaminated the system.

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