The city of Flint, Mich., will not be able to file a lawsuit against the state of Michigan over the drinking-water crisis unless the state says it’s OK.
The Detroit Free Press reports that the five-member Receivership Transition Advisory Board, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, changed the rules under which Flint is governed so that the city cannot file a lawsuit without first getting approval from the state-appointed board.
Stated plainly, Flint will be unable to sue the state unless the state of Michigan approves the lawsuit first.
In March, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver filed a notice of intent to sue the state of Michigan in the Court of Claims in case the city decided to sue the state over lead contamination in the city’s water supply. Weaver and other city officials had no actual plans to file the suit, but because of a court rule that allows only 180 days to file the notice or lose the right to sue, city officials filed the notice on March 24, which was the 180th day.
State officials were upset about the notice and called for Flint to withdraw it. When that didn’t happen, the state used the Receivership Transition Advisory Board to put a stop to the threat.
As explained on the City of Flint website, the board was put in place to oversee many aspects of the Flint city government as it moves out of emergency management:
This board will ensure a smooth transition by maintaining the measures prescribed upon the emergency manager’s exit. The Mayor and City Council have resumed their defined roles with regard to City business, yet major financial and policy decisions will be reviewed by the RTAB to ensure that they maintain fiscal and organizational stability, as directed under Public Act 436.
Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for Gov. Snyder, told the Detroit Free Press that the change made by the board on March 31 was to “more fully involve the mayor, the City Council and other top city officials, not just the city administrator, in decisions about initiating and settling litigation,” and that the resolution clarified that the advisory board's approval was required before the settlement or initiation of any litigation.
In a statement Sunday, Weaver said that she is disappointed to learn of the timing of the board’s action, but she hopes that this is a is a “sign of their intent to ensure the city of Flint is indemnified for any and all debts and obligations imposed upon the city while under state control.”
Weaver added, “I will continue to do everything within my power to safeguard the city."
Read more at the Detroit Free Press.