AG’s office, Snyder’s lawyers meet over Flint probe

FLINT — The legal team headed by Attorney General Bill Schuette pursuing a joint criminal and civil investigation into the Flint water crisis met Thursday with lawyers representing Gov. Rick Snyder to discuss access to documents that the attorney general says has been blocked.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press editorial board and reporters Thursday morning, Schuette said that his lawyers planned to meet with Snyder’s team in an effort to resolve the ongoing dispute. He called himself an “optimist” that the conflict would be resolved soon.

“The Attorney General’s special counsel and attorneys for the governor’s office today held an amicable meeting and had a frank, positive and productive discussion about the best manner in which to continue to work collaboratively on document production,” the offices of the attorney general and governor said in a joint statement late Thursday. “Moving forward, the attorneys will make their best efforts to privately work through any document production issues.”

The governor’s office has long said its officials have been cooperative with Schuette’s investigators, despite the wide-ranging nature of the investigation. But the attorney general’s team has complained about not getting  all of its requested documents from Snyder’s lawyers.

“The governor’s private attorneys weren’t supplying sufficient information, and I think we’ll solve that,” Schuette told reporters earlier this week. “A request for information was made, they weren’t forthcoming and it had nothing to do with the attorneys at the AG’s office, it was the governor’s personal attorneys who weren’t providing information.”

The attorney general, during a half-hour interview at the Free Press, said that he stands firmly behind the civil lawsuit filed last week against two private companies that his office said in court papers failed to protect the people of Flint from dangerous drinking water.

A global water company and Texas-based engineering firm “botched the job” in Flint, helping to send the city into a   drinking water crisis that has harmed public health and caused untold damages to the state, Schuette said.

“They made a bad situation worse,” Schuette said.

The water company Veolia North America and engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam have responded that their scope of work for the City of Flint and the State of Michigan was limited and that some of their recommendations were ignored by government officials whom they described as principally responsible.

At its heart, the lawsuit accuses the companies that did work for Flint of failing to diagnose the city’s water problems properly, setting up the conditions that led to a catastrophic public health outcome after a temporary change in water supply to the Flint River during parts of 2014 and 2015.

Schuette also defended his office’s pending request for $4.9 million to fund its ongoing investigation triple the amount requested in March — saying that it was necessary to bring justice to the people of Flint. He added that the money was previously approved in the recently passed state budget.

Rusty Hills, a senior adviser to Schuette, said he believes the investigation’s budget could triple again. Hills said the in-depth nature of the two-pronged investigation — criminal and civil — could rival other major national environmental probes and could take many months to reach its conclusion.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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