In a meeting lasting from 5:30 p.m. Dec. 21 to past 2:30 a.m. Nov. 22, the Flint City Council voted 6-1 in favor of a $20 million city contribution to the $641-million water crisis settlement. The council discussed what it would do over the last several weeks at several long meetings. Voting in favor of the city’s insurance paying the $20 million portion of the settlement were Council President Kate Fields and council members Maurice Davis, Santino Guerra, Allan Griggs, Eva Worthing and Herbert Winfrey. Council members Eric Mays and Monica Galloway abstained from voting on the settlement. Jerri Winfrey-Carter voted against it despite the fact both Mayor Sheldon Neeley and attorneys for the city had warned a decision not to accept the settlement could negatively impact the city and cause it to have to raise taxes.
Just before the vote, Mays criticized the council for “rushing to a decision.” He said he disagreed with the settlement’s distribution formula, which gives adults 15% of the settlement monies. In his calculations that equals about approximately $536 per adult.
Fields said the settlement was “something” and “better than nothing.” She also said she hoped U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy would take into consideration the council’s second resolution, which passed, stating the state has contributed too little money to the settlement pool and which states the proof of injury requirements for adults making claims will make it too difficult for them.
“I truly believe if we had stuck together and voted no on the settlement I think that that would have sent a strong message, but I did hear the proceedings today and I think that Judge Levy, I think she’s going to be fair,” Carter said. “I think she’s going to hear our voice, and I can’t wait until the objection period. I think we have a good chance of voicing what needs to be amended or what needs to be included into that settlement, and I’m really, really hoping she does not sell us short.”
The settlement will allow residents to make claims for damages suffered due to using city water with elevated levels of lead and other contaminants if accepted by state and federal courts. If accepted, the city will be excused from over 100 lawsuits by agreeing to settle the cases brought by thousands of residents. It will also avoid having to defend emergency managers and former employees in relation to their role in the Flint Water Crisis.
A U.S. district court must agree to the settlement. Levy will review the agreement as part of a motion for preliminary approval, and later issue a ruling on whether the settlement meets certain legal standards.
If preliminary approval is granted, then the claim registration process can begin, allowing Flint residents the opportunity to indicate their intention to file a claim. For more information on this process and details of the settlement agreement, go to FlintSettlementFacts.org.