Court Tosses Request for Grand Jury in Flint Case

     DETROIT (CN) – A Michigan circuit court declined to start a grand jury investigation into Gov. Rick Snyder’s use of taxpayer dollars to pay his legal fees in cases related to the Flint water contamination crisis.
     Mark Brewer, a former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, filed his request for the empanelling of a grand jury on Oct. 12, after he learned that $2 million in taxpayer dollars had been allocated for Snyder’s legal defense by the law firm Warner Norcross of Grand Rapids.
     Anna Heaton, the governor’s spokeswoman, said the contracts were lawful since the accusations Snyder is defending himself against involved Snyder’s time in office.
     “Since these lawsuits are brought against the office of the governor in an official capacity, it is legally sound to use public dollars to respond to them,” she said.
     In his complaint, Brewer argued that Snyder bypassed required procedures to secure the funds and that his alleged violation of a constitutional provision regarding conflicts of interest was felonious.
     As stipulated under state law, all the trial judges from the Ingham County Court voted on whether to appoint a one-judge grand jury that would investigate the claims.
     In an order dated Oct. 17, the court denied the request.
     Brewer told The Detroit News he would consider other actions to investigate the governor, but didn’t go into detail.
     “I don’t want to speculate,” he said. “Meanwhile we continue to urge the Legislature to put a stop to this.”
     Flint residents were devastated last year when it was revealed that their drinking water had been tainted with lead and other contaminants.
     The city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when its drinking water was switched to the corrosive Flint River and a decision was made not to treat it with chemicals that would have made it safe for human consumption. That 2014 decision was later described as a cost-cutting measure. The unsafe nature of the water was not disclosed until October 2015, after numerous denials from Snyder’s administration.

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