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Group files complaint against Snyder over state-paid legal defense

A group has filed a complaint against Gov. Rick Snyder for asking the state to cover his legal defense costs related to the Flint water crisis.

The liberal group Progress Michigan filed the complaint with the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

It claims the governor must set up a legal defense fund to cover the costs.

“He certainly can afford and should be required to pay for his own legal bill,” said Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott. “Any legal defense of an elected official should be paid for with private funds, raised and reported under this act, not paid for by the taxpayers.”

Mark Brewer, Progress Michigan’s attorney, concedes that the law doesn’t explicitly say the state can’t pay to defend a public official in a criminal investigation. But he claims it’s implied in the law.

The governor’s office says it’s appropriate for the state to foot the bill because all investigations are looking into actions Snyder took while acting in his official capacity.

“Using state money actually provides for the high level of transparency the Governor has established because the contracts are being released publicly,” said Ari Adler, Snyder’s spokesperson.

“Also, state rules allow for the state to bear the defense costs of employees to ensure that public servants can do their jobs with limited risk. That is why, for example, DEQ employees are also being provided with outside counsel paid for by the state when necessary.”

Snyder is asking the State Administrative Board to approve increasing the value of the contract for outside legal counsel from $249,000 to $800,000.

The board is expected to take up the request on Tuesday.

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