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Michigan Taxpayers Face Paying Millions In Legal Fees Over Flint Crisis

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Nick Visser
ATHENA IMAGE © Credit: Paul Sancya/AP ATHENA IMAGE

Michigan taxpayers may face at least $2.7 million in legal fees under new requests from the state's governor and attorney general over the Flint water crisis.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) requested on Tuesday $1.2 million for legal services, more than double the $500,000 already earmarked. Attorney General Bill Schuette asked for a separate increase in funds to $1.5 million to pay a firm investigating the government's involvement in the crisis.

Flint has been reeling after residents discovered brown water flowing from their tapsin 2014. The local government largely ignored complaints about the situation for months until reports emerged saying the water was contaminated with dangerously high levels of lead, a neurotoxin that can cause brain damage in young children.

The failed response has prompted a severe backlash against Snyder, including allegations that state and city officials ignored evidence the water was toxic. President Barack Obama called the incident "inexcusable" and Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both called on the governor to resign.

Several high-profile lawsuits have already been filed against the government. Another seeking class-action status was filed earlier this week on behalf of seven families from areas with lead-poisoned water .

The increased legal fees will be used to investigate whether any laws were broken in the government's response and to defend the governor's office against any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for the governor told the Detroit Free Press the legal contracts would become more expensive "based on the anticipated billing for work already completed and the workload as we look ahead."

“The attorney general is running an independent, broad-based investigation team that will leave no stone unturned,” Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Schuette, told the Detroit News.

As The Huffington Post's Dana Liebelson and Arthur Delaney reported last month, Schuette's office already seems to have chosen sides in the crisis, advising lower-level officials they would need to find their own lawyers while the attorney general defends the governor.

State lawmakers attacked the new budget proposal and called the increases "outrageous" and a "kick in the teeth" to taxpayers already hurting from toxic drinking water.

The contracts will go to the State Administrative Board for approval on Tuesday.

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