The very people harmed by state and local negligence that lead to tap water contamination in Flint, Michigan - resulting in at least 12 deaths, a marked increase in miscarriages, and a diminished trust of government officials - have also been hit in their wallets, with more than $14 million of taxpayer money spent so far to defend the accused in court.
Information requested by MLive-The Flint Journal from the office of Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state Department of Health and Human Services, and Attorney General Bill Schuette detail the spending on both criminal and civil cases.
- The attorney general's office has spent $6.2 million on the prosecution of 15 current and former state and city employees.
- The governor has spent $5.2 million with two law firms in defense of the executive office.
- The DEQ has spent $5.5 million for civil and criminal attorneys.
- The DHHS has spent $3.3 million on the same.
Among those accused of civil or criminal wrongdoing related to the crisis, the most expensive defenses have been paid by state taxpayers for DEQ District Supervisor Stephen Busch ($1.2 million), former DEQ director Dan Wyant ($1.02 million), former DEQ public information officer Brad Wurfeul ($941,691), DHHS Director Nick Lyon ($806,426), and Liane Shekter-Smith, former director of the DEQ Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance ($669,992).
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, was blunt about the injustice of the situation:
"It says a lot about what they think of the citizens of Flint that the taxpayers they harmed are now paying for their expensive defense lawyers," Ananich said in a statement to The Journal. "The only justice seems to be for those who committed the crimes."