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Flint, MI– The Flint City Council found an independent attorney to provide legal advice regarding the water lawsuit settlement, but before they could use his services, they voted to approve the city’s contribution to the settlement.
Last week, the council voted to find and bring before the council an independent law firm to advise them on how to proceed with voting on the city’s $20 million contribution to the $641.25 million settlement from the state of Michigan.
At Monday night’s meeting on Dec. 21, Council President Kate Fields and Councilman Eric Mays brought in Attorney Richard Wilson from the Mika Meyers law firm.
After introducing him to everyone, asking him questions, and speaking with City Attorney Angela Wheeler, the council voted 7-2 for Wilson and Wheeler to talk offline about what hiring their firm would entail, and then let the council know.
Wilson said he had not yet had a chance to review case documents regarding the settlement, as he had “only been involved in this for about 12 hours” at that point. Still, he answered general questions about how objections and companion resolutions could be done in response to the settlement.
The initial plan in hiring legal counsel was to seek unbiased advice in how the council should approach the settlement since members were divided on how to vote, and different attorneys had different opinions.
But before Wilson and his firm could look over the actual case documents and provide more specific advice and opinions, the council voted to approve the city’s use of insurance funds to join the settlement.
If Attorney Wheeler goes through with hiring Wilson and his firm, he will still be able to provide services for future legal questions, and potentially help the council file legal objections to the settlement at hand.
Wilson said the Mika Meyers Law Firm has a strong municipal law and environmental law background.
“We have done just about everything from soup to nuts when it comes to both municipal work and environmental work in the legal department,” he said.
Attending the meeting and speaking with Wheeler does not cost the city anything. Once the law firm is hired, their rate, Wilson said, is $295 an hour.
Fields asked how the council would be able to file an objection against the lawsuit, to which Wilson replied, they could not without first being granted permission by Judge Judith Levy to do so.
Wilson was also asked if there was a reason he could see to delay voting on the settlement.
“I know nothing about your insurance policy, but as a general rule, if you’ve got insurance coverage or a claim, and your insurance carrier offers to settle the claim within policy limits, if you do not agree to that, you run the risk of losing your insurance coverage,” he said.
Some members of council, as well as Attorney Wheeler, felt hiring an independent law firm was unnecessary and a waste of money.
“We got a competent, well-trained team of attorneys. We are represented well with our own city attorney team,” said Councilman Maurice Davis. “We got people invested in a very complicated matter, and a team of attorneys with five years of experience. You ain’t gonna bring in nobody in five minutes to get them to do what the team has done.”
Councilman Mays argued that the attorney could help the council, and having an attorney as a resource would be worth the money.
“I’m telling you, this guy can instruct us on what we can do legally as individuals, as a council, as objections,” Mays said.
At the end of the council meeting, Mays said he would be waiting eagerly to see what Wilson and Wheeler come up with.