Snyder’s lawyers want AG’s office sanctioned over bankruptcy cases
Lansing –Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder wants federal bankruptcy court to hold Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office in contempt of court, claiming confidential documents were leaked in connection with the Waters proceedings. Flint.
Snyder’s attorneys filed a motion Wednesday in the Eastern District of Michigan, asking a judge to impose penalties “appropriate to compel” the office to comply with 2013 court orders that demanded secrecy over the mediation of the Detroit bankruptcy.The filing raises concerns that privileged bankruptcy-related documents have been shared with other defendants and legal teams involved in the Flint lawsuit cases.
The mediation came at a time when Flint officials were on the verge of ending service with the Detroit water system in 2014 over concerns over tariffs that were too high. The Eastern District oversaw the mediation that led to the so-called “Grand Bargain” resolving the bankruptcy of Michigan’s largest city while Snyder was governor.
“Despite our repeated warnings to the Attorney General’s office regarding the improper disclosure of protected information, they have continued with reckless abandonment and now appear to have violated not only attorney-client privilege, attorney work product doctrine and executive privilege, but also the federal court of confidentiality orders related to the bankruptcy of Detroit, “Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon said Wednesday.
Courtney Covington Watkins, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, said the filing appeared “to be part of an ongoing strategy of distraction by the defense.”
“We look forward to addressing these concerns in court so that we can prosecute those responsible for the Flint Water crisis,” she said.
In January, Nessel’s office laid 41 charges against nine state and city officials, including Snyder, over allegations relating to the lead-tainted water crisis that resulted from the change in source of Flint Water on April 25, 2014. A single judge grand jury in Genesee County that operated in secret signed Flint’s charges.
Snyder, who stepped down in late 2018 after two four-year terms, faces two counts of willful neglect in connection with the Flint crisis. Misdemeanor counts carry a one-year sentence behind bars and a fine of up to $ 1,000.
The state prosecution team has started producing around 21 million documents involved in its investigation, according to Wednesday’s file from Snyder’s legal team. About 4 million documents have been provided to date, the file says.
Snyder’s attorneys say the documents they received include “communications between mediators and parties regarding substantive issues being mediated” in connection with the Detroit bankruptcy.
“On information and belief, the other defendants in the state, including some parties who did not participate in any mediation related to this bankruptcy case, received the same set of documents,” the file said.
An August 13, 2013 mediation order stated that the proceedings, discussions and writings involved in the Detroit mediation “must be privileged and confidential and must not be disclosed, filed or filed in evidence.” Snyder’s attorneys said Nessel’s office violated the orders, “in blatant disregard of any privilege or protection of confidentiality.”
Nessel is a Democrat who took office in early 2019.
In April 2013, officials in State, Flint and Detroit held an unsuccessful last-ditch meeting in an attempt to avoid Flint’s disconnection from Michigan’s largest water supply system. The Detroit Water and Sewer Service had previously sent Flint a termination notice stating that the water flow would stop within a year after Flint officials agreed to join a new regional authority based in County of Genesee.
Both towns were run by emergency managers appointed by Snyder.
Detroit water officials have fought to prevent Flint and Genesee County from breaking up, accusing the proposed regional body, the Karegnondi Water Authority, of being flawed and too costly. Officials in the Flint area were convinced that Detroit’s estimates of building a new pipeline to Lake Huron and operating the regional authority were exaggerated.
Almost all of the major players in the fight for Flint’s water future gathered at the Cadillac Place state offices in the New Center neighborhood on April 19, 2013. Snyder was there to oversee the debate.
The meeting included DWSD Director Sue McCormick and Detroit Water System Chairman Jim Fausone; State Treasurer Andy Dillon and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant; and Flint’s Emergency Director Ed Kurtz and Mayor Dayne Walling, Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright. Detroit Emergency Director Kevyn Orr responded by phone.
The meeting did not resolve the situation. Mediation talks followed Detroit’s bankruptcy filing in July 2013.
The court record from Snyder’s attorneys said Michigan Attorney General Fadwa Hammoud did not respond when asked if she agreed with their interpretation of events.
Hammoud and Wayne County District Attorney Kym Worthy are leading the state’s investigation into Flint’s water.