Board OKs extra $3.4M for Schuette’s Flint probe

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A state board on Tuesday approved Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for an extra $3.4 million for his ongoing investigation of Flint’s water contamination — more than tripling the initial cost.

The State Administrative Board voted 4-0 on Tuesday in favor of increasing Schuette’s contract with Flood Law, PLLC, the Royal Oak law firm of Special Prosecutor Todd Flood.

The cost of Schuette’s Flint probe is expected to top $4.9 million — $2.3 million for the current fiscal year and $2.6 million for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Flood is leading an investigation on Schuette’s behalf into how government agencies allowed Flint’s water to go untreated with corrosion control chemicals that prevent lead from leaching into the city’s drinking water supply.

Representatives for Gov. Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and the state Treasury Department abstained from the vote because the Snyder administration is subject to the attorney general’s ongoing investigation, Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

Schuette has said the governor’s office is not exempt from his investigation and the Treasury Department was responsible for supervising Flint’s emergency managers in 2013 and 2014 when the city moved to temporarily draw drinking water from the corrosive Flint River.

Representatives for Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and the departments of Transportation and Education who serve on the State Administrative Board voted in favor of Schuette’s contract increase.

In March, the Administrative Board voted 4-0 in favor of letting Schuette spend $1.25 million with Flood’s law firm. The Republican attorney general had the authority to spend up to $249,000 on the investigation without the board’s approval.

Six-months since Schuette launched his investigation, the probe has resulted in criminal charges against two Department of Environmental Quality employees, and a city of Flint water treatment plant worker.

Schuette also has sued two engineering firms hired by Flint to put its water plant into operation treating river water and later fix problems that arose after citizens complained about the foul smell and orange color of their drinking water.

Those companies are fighting back, contending their advice was ignored by Flint and DEQ officials.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood