LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan court rejected a request for a grand jury investigation of Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to use at least $2 million in state funds for his legal representation in criminal probes of Flint's water crisis.
Ingham County judges, who met last week to consider the request by a Flint resident, did not state a reason in their order that was made public Tuesday.
The resident, Keri Webber, and her lawyer Mark Brewer — former chairman of the state Democratic Party — filed a petition Oct. 11 alleging that the Republican governor broke the law by violating conflict-of-interest prohibitions and unilaterally spending taxpayer money for personal benefit without proper authority. One judge would have conducted the inquiry.
Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said the court's decision "isn't surprising, given that it was a baseless accusation." Snyder's office has said the spending is legally sound because the fees are related to actions taken in his official capacity.
Snyder has apologized for his administration's mistakes that caused and prolonged the contamination of Flint's water with lead, which began in 2014 while the city was under state financial management. Eight state employees and one Flint worker have been charged in an ongoing probe.
Snyder has approved two contracts for outside legal services related to the Flint emergency. One is worth $2 million for "records management issues and investigations," and the other is for $1.4 million to defend against civil lawsuits.
The complaint questioned the $2 million contract, saying no one in state government responsible for procurement approved it even though it personally benefits the governor. Snyder cites a 2011 resolution from a state board — which is controlled by his administration — stating that the governor can approve his own contracts without board approval.
Webber, who says her family was sickened by the lead, said in a statement Tuesday that it is "incredibly shameful ... that taxpayer money is going to pay for the criminal defense of the very person who was at the center of the poisoning of our drinking water to begin with."
Snyder has not been charged. His office has taken exception to characterizing the contract as criminal defense work and says it primarily covers document requests.
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