State Watch

Ex-Michigan governor must testify in Flint water civil trial, judge says

LindaParton/ iStock
Flint, Michigan, USA – January 23, 2016: Flint Water Plant Tank which holds drinking water for the city of Flint, Michigan.

A federal judge ruled Monday that former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) must testify in a trial involving engineering firms sued over lead-contaminated water tied to the Flint water crisis.

Snyder and four other former officials will testify at Michigan’s Eastern District Court after U.S. District Judge Judith Levy rejected their motions to quash subpoenas. Snyder was charged last year with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty over the water crisis.

Levy wrote that the individuals’ motions were denied because they each testified without invoking Fifth Amendment protections in previous depositions.

The former officials are considered potential witnesses to two engineering companies — Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN) and Veolia North America (VAN) — that are being sued by attorneys for four children who were harmed by Flint’s contaminated drinking water.

“We look forward to Friday’s hearing, but there is another easy solution here,” Jason Brown, the spokesperson for Snyder’s legal team, said in a statement to The Hill. “The Attorney General should drop the misdemeanor charges against Gov. Snyder with prejudice and he will be happy to testify on behalf of the state and taxpayers. As he has proven time and again, he is willing and able to help.”

The suit claims the firms did not ensure the water was being treated properly from 2014 to 2015 and were negligent in advising officials.

The engineering firms were not part of the $626 million settlement made last year between Flint residents and the state, city and other parties.

Levy wrote in her opinion that a hearing will be held to determine how the court will address specific arguments where they could self-incriminate. 

Other problems with lead-contaminated water surfaced in Michigan after the Flint crisis. Last October, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order to allocate federal, state and local resources to replace the lead service lines in Benton Harbor after discovering elevated levels of lead in tap water in the southwestern part of the state.

More than 99,000 residents were exposed to the contaminated drinking water in Flint, and it has been linked to at least 12 deaths and 80 illnesses.

Updated: March 22 at 11:03 a.m.

Tags children lead poisoning Flint water crisis Flint, Michigan Gretchen Whitmer Rick Snyder
See all Hill.TV See all Video