FLINT, MI – The city council is hiring its own attorney to represent it on matters related to the Flint water crisis and will wait before deciding whether to participate in a settlement of residents’ lawsuits against the city, Michigan and others involved.
Council members voted 8-1 on Thursday, December 17, to postpone a vote until their meeting on Monday, December 21, on whether to use $ 20 million from their insurance carrier to join the proposed $ 641 million settlement.
The third parish councilor, Santino J. Guerra, gave the only vote against the delay.
The decision to postpone the vote came after Angela Wheeler, Flint’s chief legal officer, tabled an accompanying resolution that allowed the council’s objections to the overall resident agreement to be passed on to U.S. District Judge Judith Levy, in addition to a resolution to proceed their part by the deal.
City lawyers have stated that there is a deadline of December 31st to reach a decision on the proposed $ 20 million settlement.
“This (overall arrangement) is structured in such a way that so many people can be prevented from making a successful claim,” said Eric Mays, councilor of the 1st ward. “Don’t force it down our throats.”
Mays was among the council members who said they needed more time to ponder the accompanying decision they received a few hours before the meeting.
Council members have stated that they will be pulled in two diametrical directions when considering whether to authorize the city to join the settlement – the interests of the city facing more than 100 lawsuits in state and federal courts , and the interests of the residents they represent, some have filed the lawsuits claiming they have been harmed by increased levels of lead, bacteria and chlorination byproducts in flint water.
The settlement was negotiated between residents’ attorneys and the state of Michigan, which initially agreed to pay $ 600 million to settle the lawsuit against him and his employees.
After Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the deal in August, the city, McLaren Regional Medical Center and Rowe Professional Services also agreed to join the deal by paying an additional $ 41.25 million – a step who would also exclude them from lawsuits.
Mays, 5th Ward Councilor Jerri Winfrey-Carter, and 7th Ward Councilor Monica Galloway have stated that because they don’t believe they can support the town that joins the community, they cannot support it Providing residents enough money, and disagreeing with a distribution formula that requires nearly 80 percent of the funds available to meet claims of children 17 and younger when they first met Flint River water in 2014 and 2015 were exposed.
“I think we have to send a strong message …” said Winfrey-Carter on Thursday. “This agreement with the parameters already set … I just don’t agree.”
Several other council members and Mayor Sheldon Neeley have said they support joining the settlement to protect the city’s finances and possibly property owners’ paperbacks by avoiding the potential liability of court judgments.
If the city hasn’t resolved the cases brought against them, it would be forced to continue defending the actions of former employees and emergency finance managers in court, and Neeley has stated that the lawsuits have the potential to bankrupt the city and make it special Appraisals against them lead property owners when the city can’t afford to pay big court judgments against them.
In separate but related steps, the council also voted on Thursday to hire its own lawyer to advise members on water disputes and issues and to submit a response to the settlement and all of its objections to the court.
“With our own lawyer, we have our own voice,” said Eva Worthing, councilor for the 9th community. “If we can change something, make our concerns known in a legal (response), we will likely get a lot further.”
Levy is expected to consider a request for preliminary approval of the full settlement agreement before the council meets on Monday. However, your decision is not expected until mid-January.
Related: Federal judge orders December 21 hearing to resolve the Flint water crisis
The deal’s preliminary approval would take up the local residents’ process of filing claims for part of the settlement and also trigger a period of time during which the court will consider objections to the deal.
“I won’t get a stamp. I’ll check it out to see if it’s a fair, reasonable, reasonable transaction on market terms – all that we’re looking for in a settlement, ”Levy said in a court hearing in late October.
Mays said the council should use its position to communicate concerns among residents that the settlement is inadequate and unfair to adults who have health claims and are involved in only 15 percent of the funds available.
In addition to voting against the deal, Guerra also voted against the council’s decision to hire its own lawyer instead of relying on city and contract lawyers who worked for Flint.
“(That) could be a waste of more taxpayers’ money,” said the city council.
Council President Kate Fields told her colleagues that she spoke to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday about the water settlement and that she was “very willing … to have a discussion” with the rest of the council .
Nessel’s office negotiated the state settlement with lawyers for the residents.
Ryan Jarvi, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the discussion was for Nessel “to personally express its support for the city joining the state’s settlement”.
“In response to Fields’ concerns about aspects of the agreement, AG Nessel offered to meet with the Council to discuss how these concerns may be addressed through (future) negotiations with the (US Environmental Protection Agency) or other parties could. ” Jarvi said in a statement to MLive-The Flint Journal. “However, the attorney general has made it clear that such negotiations or discussions must take place as part of future separate measures and that there is no way to change the current regime.”
In addition to the state, the city, McLaren and Rowe, other defendants in the lawsuits, including the EPA, have so far refused to come to terms with lawyers for local residents.
Flint City Council unable to agree on a solution to the water crisis, vote postponed to Thursday
Opponents vow to fight the Flint Water Settlement when the city’s decision approaches
Flint’s surplus insurance did not cover losses related to lead, the attorney said