LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan's attorney general on Tuesday asked to spend $3.4 million more on a criminal and civil probe into Flint's water crisis, which would more than triple the funding for his team of nearly two dozen outside lawyers and investigators.
For nearly 18 months, the impoverished, predominantly black city of nearly 100,000 residents that's located about 60 miles north of Detroit used the Flint River as a way to save money while under state emergency management. But lead was released from aging pipes and fixtures as improperly treated river water flowed into homes and businesses, and elevated levels of the toxin were discovered in children.
Independent experts have also suggested a link between the river and a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak.
The State Administrative Board's Finance and Claims Committee on Tuesday endorsed the $4.9 million contract on a 3-0 vote, with no debate in a quick meeting. The full seven-member board, which also typically automatically OKs contracts before it, will consider Attorney General Bill Schuette's amendment request on July 12.
In March, board authorized $1.25 million in additional spending for special counsel Todd Flood, 11 other lawyers, 10 investigators and a separate computer system. Schuette did not need approval of an initial $249,000 contract because it was below the threshold requiring board approval.
Schuette, who has filed criminal charges against three government employees and sued two water engineering companies over the crisis, has guaranteed the filing of additional charges.
"The attorney general is running an independent, broad-based investigation to determine what happened in Flint that left families' daily lives a struggle and shook the trust of citizens in their government," Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said in a statement. "This is not an investigation that can be done on the cheap, and the funds that the department is requesting have already been designated by the Legislature to fund the ongoing investigation."
Budget legislation that is expected to be signed this week by Gov. Rick Snyder, who has apologized for his administration's role in the public health emergency, includes $3.9 million for Schuette's Flint-related expenses.
The measure also has $11 million more this fiscal year for Snyder and the attorney general to defend lawsuits filed against them in their official capacity and to secure outside legal advice — or $16 million altogether, triple the $5 million normally allocated.