The governor of Michigan faces another suit from Flint residents who were victims of lead poisoning.
Governor Rick Snyder, along with former members of his staff, are being sued by 15 citizens in a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed April 6. It is looking to gain financial compensation for property damage, loss of business and financial losses stemming from the city’s water crisis. The suit is also looking for punitive damages and compensation for future medical care.
MLive reports the federal racketeering suit targets the city of Flint as well as Snyder and his staff members: former Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore; the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and some members of its staff; the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and its staff members; 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. Allegations say the named parties used racketeering activities to try to balance the city budget.
“He wants to run the state like a business,” attorney Marc J. Bern said of 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.”
The lawsuit also says officials inaccurately portrayed the Flint River’s water as drinkable for two years. Residents were charged the nation’s highest rates for water that couldn’t be safely consumed, leading to a change in Flint’s budget deficit. The city had a $3.3 million surplus as a result. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, attorneys say the city appointed an emergency manager. There are also allegations of mail and wire fraud due to citizens being billed and paying for toxic water. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam and Veolia North America – two companies named in the suit filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – say they simply carried out contractual obligations and had no involvement in switching the water source to the Flint River.
Flint residents will be interviewed by federal investigators this weekend. The Associated Press reports the inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency is holding invitation-only meetings with citizens. One hundred residents submitted complaints between April 2014 and October 2015 to the EPA or the White House about water supply issues.