Robert Davis (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Lansing — Political activist Robert Davis has filed a lawsuit claiming Gov. Rick Snyder’s aide Rich Baird illegally was provided a state-funded office, email account, travel expenses and police protection while acting as a “private consultant.”
Baird, a top Snyder adviser, was paid a $100,000 salary out of Snyder’s NERD Fund until the governor decided about a week ago to move him to the state payroll at $140,000 a year.
Davis, who frequently challenges Snyder’s Detroit emergency manager and bankruptcy moves, won a hearing on Monday before Ingham County Circuit Judge James Jamo. He has formed a group, Citizens United Against Corrupt Government, through which he files his court cases.
The NERD Fund was a target of critics because its donors’ names aren’t made public. This could hide a conflicts of interest in which one or more wealthy funders sought favorable treatment from Snyder’s administration, critics say.
Snyder and the board in charge of the NERD fund have announced they’ll replace it with a new fund whose contributors’ names will be disclosed. But they say they won’t make public donors to the NERD Fund or how much they gave.
In a show cause order issued Thursday, Jamo prohibited Snyder from destroying, altering or moving any documents related to his NERD Fund, which the governor plans to dissolve by year’s end.
Davis is seeking to freeze NERD Fund records in connection with his lawsuit and wants the right to question Detroit mayoral candidate Mike Duggan.
He claims Duggan conspired with Snyder and Baird “behind closed doors” to appoint Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency manager. Duggan has said he rebuffed a Snyder effort to recruit him as an emergency manager candidate and argued against appointing one.
Davis contends it’s crucial to take a “limited deposition” from Duggan no later than Friday because “voters deserve to know his true involvement” in Orr’s selection. Davis works for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 25 union, which has endorsed Duggan’s opponent, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
In another Davis case, Wayne County Circuit Judge Maria Oxholm recently ruled the state must release the names of emergency manager candidates who made the final cut.
The Davis lawsuit was filed in Ingham’s circuit court because it acts as the state’s Court of Claims, where residents can bring legal complaints against state government and its local divisions, such as counties.
The state Senate’s Republican majority passed a bill Wednesday that would move the Court of Claims to the Michigan Court of Appeals.