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Flint, MI– Flint City Council has voted to postpone the vote on the city’s contribution to the $641.25 million water lawsuit settlement, and to retain services of an independent law firm for advice on the matter.
The city’s attorneys have been urging the council to approve the city’s $20 million contribution, which would be paid for by insurance, and resolve Flint Water Litigation claims against the City, its former officials, and former employees.
The council has been divided on whether to accept or reject the city’s contribution. Some feel it is the safest option for the city, while others feel joining the settlement sends the message that the council approves the terms of the settlement as it is. Many council members have taken issue with the terms of the settlement as far as the total amount, who is included, and how it is distributed.
Due to these concerns, City Attorney Angela Wheeler presented the council with a “companion resolution” on Thursday before the meeting, which she said would allow the council to voice their concerns with settlement.
The resolution document has not yet been made available to the public, but Wheeler said the city’s attorneys worked together to enumerate the council’s criticisms of the settlement in this resolution, to be shared with Judge Judith Levy. The city’s attorneys requested the council approve the city’s contribution to the settlement, and the addition of the companion resolution.
Since the council received the companion resolution only hours before the meeting, many of them said they needed more time to look it over before making a decision.
The council voted 8-1 to postpone the vote on the resolution on the water settlement litigation with the companion resolution until Dec. 21.
With a vote of 6-3, the council also voted to hire their own attorney to “help them deal with all water litigation,” and for “the City of Flint attorney to expedite hiring once identified.”
Council President Kate Fields said she thought it was “vital” that the council have their own independent attorney for this particular settlement, but also so the council wouldn’t be “caught in this situation in the future.”
“Council is not being given information in a timely way by our own attorneys…and we certainly weren’t allowed input in the process, but they expect us to legally approve it in the end,” Fields said referring to the city’s attorneys.
Councilman Eric Mays said an independent attorney would be necessary to get “some clarification and…unbiased legal information.”
Councilman Maurice Davis said he thought this was a waste of time and money for the council to do.
“Why would we change our legal counsel and forgo all of this legal advice that costs the city hundreds of thousands of dollars?” Davis asked.
Councilwoman Eva Worthing said she thought spending money on an attorney for council would be worth it.
“It’s really for our constituents, because I know a lot of people are confused about this settlement,” she said. “I know my constituents would appreciate we went the extra mile, just to make sure that it all goes the way that we want it to.”
Once the council decided to hire an independent attorney, they decided to create an ad hoc committee to find the law firm for the job.
Councilman Herbert Winfrey nominated Fields and Mays to be that committee, a pairing that garnered a few chuckles, given their tendency to argue and disagree on the council.
“In all humor, as long as we can do it from a distance on the phone,” Mays said. “No, I’m just kidding, I would be glad to serve.”
Fields joked that the two were making history, and said she hoped the two “can continue this collaborative experience.”
Winfrey said he liked the “probing questions” the two of them have in public discussions.
“That wasn’t a joke,” he said. “I really think that we got two good minds to look at these attorneys that we’re gonna hire.”
The two decided they will bring forth their recommendations for attorneys to the council on Monday for approval.
The rest of the items on the agenda were also postponed to next week’s meeting.