Flint, MI– The Flint City Council voted to approve the city’s contribution to the $641.25 million water lawsuit settlement after weeks of indecision.
This vote allows the city to resolve Flint Water Litigation claims against the City, its former officials, and former employees, using $20 million of insurance funds. The city will be joining the State of Michigan, McLaren Hospital, and Rowe Engineering in this settlement.
The deadline for the council to vote on this matter was Dec. 31, but after weeks of debate, discussion with attorneys, and votes to postpone, many council members decided they were ready to vote at Monday night’s meeting on Dec. 21.
The council voted 6-1 with two abstentions.
The council also voted to approve the attachment of a “companion resolution” to the resolution for the city to join the settlement. The companion resolution lists the concerns the council has about the settlement, and will be presented to Judge Judith Levy.
Council President Kate Fields, Councilwoman Eva Worthing, Councilman Allan Griggs, Councilman Santino Guerra, Councilman Maurice Davis and Councilman Herbert Winfrey all voted in support of the city joining the settlement.
Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter cast the only vote against the resolution.
Councilman Eric Mays abstained from the vote and said he disagreed with the percentages in the settlement, and did not feel the council properly vetted it since they did not speak with the insurance companies.
He said he was disappointed in his colleagues for rushing to vote “at this early stage.”
Councilwoman Monica Galloway abstained and said she did “not support the guidelines surrounding the resolution,” and did not want to attach her name to something where the city had to be a defendant.
“In my opinion it is disheartening that today we sit as…a defendant in a case where we’ve had no authority whatsoever, we had no control over emergency managers,” Galloway said. “And yet we sit as a community defending the very emergency managers that were imposed upon us.”
She said she would “scream attempted murder” as long as she lived in Flint, and hoped the next Time Magazine headline would read, “how little it cost for someone that attempted to murder an entire city.”
Councilwoman Worthing said she would not vote to “wreck the city financially, to make some big statement and act like a big hero.”
The city’s attorneys have warned the council about the financial risks of not approving the settlement, and the potential for property taxes to go up if the city is sued for more than they can afford.
This risk became especially apparent after the council received a letter, which some members called “threatening,” from Attorney Corey Stern who is co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in the litigation. In the letter, Stern said if the council did not approve the city joining the settlement, on Jan. 1, 12:01 a.m., he would demand $500 million from the city “for its role in creating and perpetuating the crisis.”
Attorney Rick Berg said Stern’s letter was just telling the council what it was going to cost them if they “don’t make the right decision this time around.”
Council President Fields voted to support joining the settlement although she said she was not happy about it.
“I’m not happy with all the terms of the settlement, but the best we could do is to hope Judge Levy will take our concerns under advisement,” Fields said.
The companion resolution expresses concerns with the amount of funds the State of Michigan is contributing and the proof of injury requirements which “may be unduly burdensome” for Flint residents.
Councilwoman Galloway did not support the companion resolution because “it doesn’t have any teeth,” and “it doesn’t send enough of a statement.”
Council President Fields said she thought it was “better than nothing,” and would at least get their concerns on the official record.
Judge Levy held a public hearing earlier in the day Dec. 21, and said she would not decide to preliminarily approve the settlement until after the city council had voted. She said she would be listening to people’s concerns and have her decision mid-January.