By Tom Travis
Grappling with the most recent development in the Flint Water Crisis Settlement the City Council had a heated discussion for over two hours of their nearly nine hour meeting on Monday. The discussion centered around a resolution to amend the Flint Water Litigation Settlement agreement.
McLaren released a statement containing details of changes saying, “our hospital has modified its participation in the fund…We have notified the court of our plans to maintain a $5 million contribution to the fund.”
McLaren’s entire statement read as follows:
McLaren Flint joined the proposed water settlement with the State of Michigan and others because we believe it is the best path forward to bringing some resolution to this long and painful situation for our community. We continue to feel the settlement is the most appropriate and expedition approach to resolution.
Given the recent reduction in the number of plaintiffs participating in the settlement agreement, our hospital has modified its participation in the fun accordingly. We have notified the court of our plans to maintain a $5 million contribution to the fund.
We look forward to seeing the settlement move forward and we comment the Attorney General’s Office for their continued commitment to ensuring a fair, adequate and reasonable resolution to this complicated and difficult situation.
In a follow-up email with McLaren’s public relations contact, Rosemary Plorin of Lovell Communications (based in Nashville, TN) said, “McLaren is working to understand the implications of the Council’s vote and has nothing to share at this time.”
The resolution that was dropped can be viewed below.
The city council’s approval is necessary for McLaren’s settlement amount to be changed from $20 million to $5 million. The City of Flint’s legal department prepared a resolution approving the change. The council voted against the resolution in a 5-4 vote with Council President Kate Fields (Ward 4), Santino Guerra (Ward 3), Allan Griggs (Ward 8) and Eva Worthing (Ward 9) casting the four ‘yes’ votes in favor of the resolution. The resolution can come back before council in 30 days.
In August 2020 the State of Michigan released the details of the Flint Water Crisis Settlement in which it laid out the amounts to be paid. $600 million would be paid by the State of Michigan, $20 million from The City of Flint’s insurance company, $1.25 million from Rowe Professional Services and $20 million from McLaren Hospital. McLaren executives deny claims that they were a source of the outbreak of Legionnaires disease which sickened 90 and took at least 11 lives in 2014 and 2015 and was linked by some sources to the tainted Flint water.
Why does McLaren want to “get out”? – Councilperson Herb Winfrey
Councilperson Herb Winfrey (Ward 6) asked why McLaren wants to “get out” of the Water Crisis Settlement now? Assistant City Attorney Bill Kim responded saying, “The claims against McLaren are essentially based on people who contracted legionnaires while they were at McLaren. That’s quantitatively and qualitatively different than the claims against the other defendants where the issue is, essentially, lead in the water.”
Kim explained, “based on the registrations it was basically clear that the vast majority of the people who had brought legionella claims against McLaren many who are represented by Mr. Fieger’s [Attorney Geoffrey Fieger] firm did not register for the settlement so will not be taking part in that.”
Kim added that he can’t “precisely” say why McLaren would choose the numbers that it did, “but if I were in their shoes” I would think they are trying to come up with an amount that the City would need to defend against cases it was going to pursue.”
Kim added later, in a response to Councilperson Eric Mays (Ward 1), that “the State has made a statement that they will not be exercising any of their ‘walk away’ rights” and that all four parties in the Water Crisis Settlement participants have a “walk-away” clause. The clauses concerning The City of Flint, Rowe Engineering and the State of Michigan are identical but the walk-away clause concerning McLaren is different “because of the nature of their claims,” explained Kim.
“We have spent 35 minutes on something that should have been voted on up or down. Instead, this council, as a legislative body, in my opinion is trying to be shamed,” said Councilperson Monica Galloway (Ward 7), directing her comments toward the City Attorneys.
“How much can poor folks take?” – Davis
“The whole thing should be dropped,” said Councilperson Maurice Davis (Ward 2). We [the City of Flint] should be able to walk away from this garbage,” blasted Davis. “We should drop all this mess and start over….How much can poor folks take? This is not right.”
Councilperson Allan Griggs pleads for understanding
“I think what some council members are not understanding is that to respect to damages against McLaren we’re talking about only Legionnaires disease damages we’re not talking about lead in the water.”
“McLaren is not at all responsible for the lead in our drinking water. They’re responsible for the legionnaires disease.”
“I understand the anger.” – Fields
Councilperson Fields (Ward 4) said, “I understand the anger that I’m hearing from some of my colleagues, the emotional anger, that the settlement isn’t enough. It’s not enough for the citizens of Flint.
“I get that but the fact of the matter is that, and I’m using round numbers here, when you have everything that everyone was putting into the pot we have a total settlement of $641 million. If we don’t approve this amendment, it’s my understanding, that McLaren will take their $20 million and walk away. If we agree to this amendment they will leave $5 million in.
“Now I think it’s pretty simple math we’ve got $621 million without McLaren if we vote to approve the amendment we’ve got $626 million. So to me the facts are that $626 million, though not enough money, is what we would have to work with and $626 million is more than $621 million. So I’m not going to vote to drop this. I think it’s better for the citizens to have the larger pool of money available to help pay for their damage claims.”
In a discussion between Assistant City Attorney Kim and Councilperson Galloway Kim said that it was “advantageous” for McLaren to leave “some money” in the settlement. Galloway retorted, “If it is so advantageous for them to leave some money in then why should we agree to allow them to exercise any walk-away rights?….This is not about emotions. And as much as I don’t appreciate the amount of the settlement. I’m not a part of the settlement. I haven’t exercised what I’d like to do or what I would even consider doing.”
EVM is including each monthly print issue a revised Flint Water Crisis information box including water line pipe replacements and other important water crisis data and resources for residents. The most recent water crisis information box can be viewed below.
The next regularly scheduled city council meeting will be Wednesday, September 22 at 5:30 p.m. City council meetings are currently conducted electronically and can be viewed on The City of Flint Meeting YouTube channel. Residents can participate by calling for public speaking by dialing (617) 944-8177.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.